CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a Thursday White House briefing that preliminary data reviewed by her agency suggests 99.5% of the people who died from Covid-19 over the past six months were unvaccinated, a stunning statistic in support of her assertion that nearly every virus-linked death is now preventable.
Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center employees transport a deceased patient to a refrigerated truck on … [+]
Walensky said the early data “from a collection of states” indicates nearly every coronavirus victim since January—a month after the U.S. first began administering shots—was not vaccinated against the virus.
She emphasized this as a reflection of the efficacy of vaccines, which she insisted have made virtually all virus-linked deaths entirely avoidable.
The CDC director juxtaposed the positive signals of vaccine efficacy with the threat of the more infectious delta variant, which she said now makes up an estimated 25% of new cases.
Walensky expressed particular concern about 1,000 counties (primarily based in the South, East and Midwest) that she said have vaccination rates of 30%.
These communities are “our most vulnerable,” Walensky said, noting the CDC has already started seeing “increased rates of disease” in some of the areas due to the spread of the mutant delta strain.
“Any suffering or death from Covid-19 tragic,” Walensky said. “With vaccines available across the country, the suffering and loss we are now seeing is entirely avoidable.”
A previous analysis by the Associated Press found 99.2% of the more than 18,000 coronavirus-linked deaths reported in May were among unvaccinated individuals, with just 150 dying from “breakthrough” infections (in fully vaccinated people). However, the Thursday statistic from the CDC offers a much broader look at the link between vaccinations and Covid-19 deaths.
As top public health officials continue to sound the alarm about the threat of the delta variant, the Biden administration announced Thursday it will be deploying rapid response teams across the U.S. to the hot spots where the strain is flourishing. This will involve a combination of both on-the-ground and virtual assistance, explained White House Covid-19 czar Jeff Zients. He did not specify exactly where these “surge response” teams will be sent, but suggested it may be the 1,000 counties highlighted by Walensky.
Though almost every state is reopened, vaccination rates have drastically slowed across the country with less than half of all eligible Americans fully inoculated. The vaccine rollout has unfolded with stark divisions along party lines, as signaled by the fact that all 18 states that surpassed President Biden’s goal of having 70% of residents at least partially vaccinated by July 4 voted for him in the 2020 election. A handful—Mississippi, Louisiana, Wyoming and Alabama—are yet to surpass even a 50% vaccination rate.
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