gros150_David McNewGetty Images_vaccineprotest David McNew/Getty Images

That Old Time Anti-Vaxx Feeling

The best single predictor of vaccine uptake per US state is not political affiliation, but the share of the population that believes the human race has always existed. Such findings do not bode well for the global effort to boost vaccination rates.

BRUSSELS – Vaccination is the best protection against COVID-19, and the evidence for that is overwhelming. While protection against infection or transmission is not guaranteed – especially with the Delta variant raging – getting vaccinated substantially reduces the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from the coronavirus. Widespread vaccination is thus the key to enabling responsible governments to relax public-health restrictions, thereby allowing the economic recovery to continue. But this seems increasingly to be out of reach.

Researchers estimate that 70-85% of the population needs to be vaccinated (or otherwise immune to COVID-19) to end the pandemic. Yet even in Israel, which was leading the world in its vaccination drive at the beginning of 2021, the share of the population that has been vaccinated has stalled at just over 60%. In the United States, only about half the population is now protected, and vaccination rates have plummeted from 3.2 million doses per day in April to fewer than 700,000 doses per day as of early August.

The US case is particularly interesting, because the country-wide average obscures large differences among socio-economic groups and across states. Whereas over 63% of people in Massachusetts and Maine are fully vaccinated, only 34% of people in Mississippi and Alabama are. Across towns and counties, the disparities are even larger.

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