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US Coronavirus: There are two key things that America must now tackle in its Covid-19 vaccination effort

Experts say they saw it coming.

“In the first few months, we caught the part of the population that really wanted these vaccines,” said infectious disease expert Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis to CNN on Saturday. “But now we’ve reached the ‘wait and see’ crowd and the direct ‘I do not want that’ crowd.”

“Vaccine trust needs to be addressed, while access also needs to be addressed,” Davis said. “We need to be … innovative about both culturally competent education and be thoughtful about where the gaps are and where we can get shots in people’s arms.”

Experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, estimates that between 70% and 85% of the country must be immune to the virus ̵
1; through vaccination or previous infection – to control its spread. So far, approx. 44% of the US population received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 31% of the population is fully vaccinated, the data show.
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There are three groups of people who have not yet received a vaccine, said emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen to CNN Saturday. One is generally anti-vaccine and anti-science, Wen said, and not the group that the United States should first target.

“The group we need to target first are those who really want the vaccine but just haven’t had it because they have other things in their lives to worry about,” like throwing more jobs or taking care of older parents or children, she said.

“We need to make it really easy for them to get the vaccine. I think we should close mass vaccination sites, redistribute vaccines to doctors’ offices, pharmacies, get public clinics and churches and schools and workplaces,” Wen added.

And there is a group of people who have specific concerns about the vaccines, such as what the side effects might be, Wen said.

“We have to tackle these concerns, ideally by people in their community who changed their minds, who originally thought, ‘I’m worried about the vaccines too, but here’s what changed me.’

Pedestrians pass in front of signs to the Covid-19 vaccination site outside the American Museum of Natural History in New York on April 30, 2021

The United States is still in a race for vaccination

And while it may feel like the United States is slowly smoking out of the pandemic, officials say there is still an ongoing race to vaccinate as many Americans as possible.
Coronavirus deaths are down in the United States, and vaccines may be partly responsible
National Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are declining, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky during a briefing at the White House Covid-19 on Friday.

But the sooner the United States vaccinates more Americans, the greater the country’s opportunity to prevent both the further spread of the virus and the potential for new dangerous varieties.

“The more virus and viral replication, the more chances the virus has to mutate, and that means additional opportunities for variants to develop,” Walensky said.

In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown alerted Friday and said the state has recorded Covid-19 case increases of 20% more for five weeks in a row and nearly doubled the number of admissions in one week.

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Cases were widespread, the governor said, driven by more infectious variants.

She added that several counties would now see temporarily tightened restrictions to help slow the spread of the virus.

“Scientific modeling also shows that over the next two to three weeks, based on current vaccination rates, we may be ahead of these variants,” Brown said. “Following this path, we should be able to lift restrictions across the country and return to a sense of normalcy by the end of June.”

In the summer we could be back to normal, says expert

Other leaders across the United States have also shared timelines for when they hope to return to a sense of normalcy.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio recently said he is targeting July 1 for the city’s full reopening, citing fewer admissions, a rising vaccination rate and access to vaccine in the city as reasons for this strategy.
The United States is taking a big step towards resuming normal life

Walensky, the CDC director, said Friday that a reopening plan for Covid-19 on July 1 was reasonable.

“We are focused on getting people vaccinated and lowering rates,” she said. “If we can continue at this pace – rates are falling, vaccinations are rising – then I think July 1 would be a reasonable target.”

An expert told CNN on Saturday that in the summer, the United States will be very close to the normal we have longed for.

“When we go into the summer and hit 60, 70% vaccination rates, transmission will drop. And that means life will look a lot like it did in 2019,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

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But right now, Hotez said, there is still a significant level of transmission of the virus.

In the past week, the United States has averaged more than 49,000 new Covid-19 cases daily, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Even as Covid-19 numbers get better, it will be important to continue vaccinating Americans to prevent a re-emergence of the virus in the fall and winter, Wen said.

“I … am afraid people will become complacent,” she said. “They want to see things return to normal. They can go about doing things they were not previously capable of, whether or not they were vaccinated.”

If people now at the fence are not vaccinated, the United States may not have widespread levels of protection against the virus, Wen said.

“And then with winter … we have a big resurgence, maybe we have varieties coming in from other countries and we could start this whole process again,” she said.

CNN’s Kelsie Smith and Virginia Langmaid contributed to this report.

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