Connecting state and local government leaders
COMMENTARY | While the U.S. is just shy of 70% of Americans receiving a Covid-19 shot by a July 4th goal, governments need to redouble their commitment to reach everyone who wants a vaccine, and quickly.
Most public health officials aren’t grilling hot dogs and hamburgers this Fourth of July weekend: They are continuing the hard work of making sure as many Americans as possible receive a Covid-19 vaccine. While we are just shy of reaching the 70% of all eligible Americans receiving a shot by July 4 goal set by President Biden, there is still a lot to celebrate.
Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., have vaccinated 70% or more adults with at least one shot, and many more are close behind. They should be lauded for their extraordinary efforts.
The Covid-19 vaccination is our modern “shot heard round the world.” Public health professionals have made history by setting up and implementing an unprecedented vaccination campaign, administering over 327 million doses of Covid vaccine in just over six months. More than 155 million Americans are fully vaccinated. America is sharing vaccine with the world while continuing our efforts at home to assure all eligible Americans have easy access to vaccine.
The results of this monumental effort are clear: Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all down dramatically. This success is possible due to the scientists who developed safe and effective vaccines in record time and the government officials who have worked together to plan and implement a vaccination campaign of unprecedented proportions.
And we can’t let up now. We need to redouble our commitment to reach every American who desires to be vaccinated, and quickly. As the Delta variant continues to spread, we are seeing more illness among unvaccinated individuals. And while research indicates that current vaccines are effective against this recent variant, no one knows if our vaccines will be effective against the Delta variant’s variant. We must stop the spread now more than ever lest all our progress be eroded as this crafty virus evolves and perhaps evades the protection we have today.
Keep on Listening
There is no single message or method that will work to convince unvaccinated Americans to receive a shot. Public health officials and community leaders need to keep listening and sharing information with those who remain hesitant on how getting vaccinated will help keep us all safe—you, your family, your community, the economy and your country.
Our nation’s public health officials have taken on the most complicated logistical task in public health history. The challenges have been immense, and the work has been exhausting. We thank all who have demonstrated that public health is public service at its finest. And we add special thanks to the members of Congress who championed funding for this effort and have already acknowledged that we can’t go back to the status quo in funding public health once this emergency passes.
In the success of the vaccination campaign to date, we see glimmers of hope—hope that our independence to travel, worship, play and work freely is restored. We know that trust must be earned, and our hope is that as Americans see the impact of this effort—possibly the greatest public health campaign in history—it will rebuild trust in both science and the governmental agencies that apply that science to prevent suffering and save lives among the people they have the privilege to serve.
Claire Hannan has served as the executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers since 2004. Michael Fraser has served as the Association of State & Territorial Health Officials chief executive officer since August 2016. Brent Ewig is a public health consultant with over two decades of experience.