Americans are getting vaccinated for COVID-19 at the slowest rate since mid-July, causing concern among health officials as flu season approaches.
The seven-day moving average of first shots was 272,000 at the end of last week, according to CDC data released Wednesday.
The slowdown can be partially attributed to the fact that 64 percent of Americans are at least partially vaccinated already, but the US trails dozens of other countries in immunization rates, as deaths in the nation continue to surge, data shows.
The most recent seven-day average made available by the CDC showed 1,556 US COVID-19 daily deaths, far above mid-July when there were often fewer than 200 people a day succumbing to the coronavirus.
States with the lowest vaccination rates were being hit the hardest by the virus’ death toll, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.
West Virginia, the state with the lowest vaccination rate, also had the most people hospitalized per capita in the US.
In Alabama and Alaska, where less than half the state population is fully vaccinated, deaths and hospitalizations also recently soared, according to the report.
Health officials said medical systems that are already reaching a breaking point could be further strained by the flu patients this season, even as flu deaths dropped to unprecedented lows during the pandemic.
“On any given day, between 85 to 90% of the hospitalized COVID-19 patients right now are unvaccinated,” Cindy Knall, a professor of immunology at the University of Alaska at Anchorage, told the paper.
“I’m trying to stay hopeful, so I won’t use the term dire, but things are not good here,” Knall said, adding that an influx of flu patients would drain resources.
The CDC has said that last year’s virtually non-existent flu season was likely due to social distancing and mask-wearing, trends that have since diminished.
“Last flu season much of the country was under masking and closure conditions, which helped lessen the flu caseload,” Knall reportedly said. “This year we don’t have those public health measures in place.”
Influenza killed 22,000 Americans in 2019-2020, officials reported.
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