More than 70% of Ohioans may not be vaccinated against COVID-19 until spring 2022, nearly a year behind a federal government benchmark, and creating the opportunity for further bans and masking.
Earlier this year, President Joe Biden set a goal of 70% of Americans vaccinated by July 4th, which the US missed by about 3 percentage points. While most states are expected to hit the milestone before the end of 2021, at least 14 states may not hit it until next year. Only four states are in worse shape than Ohio.
It’s possible Ohio will never hit the 70% mark, even though it’s too early to know for sure, said Dr. Bill Miller, Senior Associate Dean of Research and Professor of Epidemiology at Ohio State University’s College of Public Health.
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“That’s a real problem,” said Miller. “People who wanted vaccines got them, and a few people who hesitated were convinced.”
Unvaccinated, the pandemic in Ohio will “prolong”, say experts
And neither will Alabama or South Carolina, according to a Washington Post analysis published in Becker’s Hospital Review, 70% of Ohioans on their current route will not be vaccinated before May 2022. Louisiana may not reach 70% until June 2022, Montana and Idaho may not reach it until July 2022, and North Dakota could be the last to hit the threshold in September, according to Becker.
If the predictions come true, they threatened, according to Miller, with an “extension of the pandemic”.
As of Friday, just over 48% of Ohioans had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Neighboring Pennsylvania is 64%, Massachusetts 71%, and Vermont 75%, data shows.
Ohio’s vaccinations have slowed significantly in the past few months.
At the height of the vaccine rollout, 107,898 vaccinations were given on March 31. Only 2,986 doses were given on Tuesday, the youngest day for which data is available, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
“There is a clear message that is getting through: This is going to be a pandemic for the unvaccinated,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said during a briefing on Friday at the White House.
âWe are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk. And communities that are fully vaccinated are generally fine. “
Across Ohio, the population population vaccinated varies widely, from 62% in Delaware County to 15% in Holmes County. That immunity could spark outbreaks across the state and, in the worst case scenario, require further bans, masking and distancing, said Dr. Joe Gastaldo, medical director, infectious diseases, OhioHealth.
Reintroducing these measures could be another challenge, Gastaldo said, especially in places that have been resistant at all and have been reluctant to get vaccinated.
“When and when these things happen, the public will be confused and people will revolt,” said Gastaldo.
Governor Mike DeWine reiterated on Friday that he has no plans to re-order masks.
Delta variant is expected to spread in Ohio in a few weeks
To make matters worse, the Delta variant is far more contagious than previous virus strains.
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In other states, where vaccination rates remain low and the Delta variant is widespread, cases are already increasing. In Missouri, a state with a surge in infections, the Delta variant accounted for 91% of all cases tested as of July 12, The Kansas City Star reported.
Although Delta accounted for only 1% of all variants discovered in Ohio by early July, it was said to have been responsible for at least 15% of cases in Ohio from June 6 to 19, according to the Ohio Department of Health. That means Delta caused approximately 674 of the 4,493 known cases diagnosed during that period.
“The reality is we now have two Ohios,” said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, medical director of the state health department, on a call with reporters on Wednesday. “An Ohio that is vaccinated and protected on the one hand, and an Ohio that is unvaccinated and prone to deltas on the other.”
Ohio, Gastaldo said, could be just a few weeks behind other states seeing a resurgence of COVID-19 outbreaks due to Delta. Otherwise, the next big wave of infections will likely come this fall and winter as people flock indoors again without masks, Gastaldo said.
If cases rise again, Gastaldo said it probably won’t be as bad as it was in November when we hit an all-time high of 13,011 a day in Ohio. But deaths would also rise, as most people who become infected would likely be unvaccinated, Gastaldo said.
“It is really a sad occurrence that someone has to die because of COVID,” he said. “In all respects, COVID deaths are preventable deaths.”
Although the pace of vaccinations in Ohio is slow now, officials hope that once vaccinations get full approval from the Food and Drug Administration, officials hope that vaccinations will change, as opposed to the emergency approval previously granted. This approval could come before the end of summer.
At the moment, only Ohioans 12 and older are eligible to be vaccinated.
Approval for younger children could be made towards the end of the year or early next year.an FDA official told NBC News on Thursday. This could give the vaccinations a late boost, said Dr. Andrew Thomas, Chief Clinical Officer at Wexner Medical Center, Ohio.
“This is the next big step in increasing those numbers,” Thomas said during a call to reporters on Wednesday. “That will be of great help in reducing us as a state to 70% overall.”