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.”
“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.’
The United States is still in a race for vaccination
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.
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.
In the summer we could be back to normal, says expert
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.
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.