Vaccinations increase, but 93 million eligible Americans are still on the fence about shots

Federal health officials say Georgia has seen a 66% increase in people getting their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine over the last two weeks, as the delta variant continues to spread.

70% of American adults have had at least one shot.

Just over 90 million eligible to receive the vaccine have not been vaccinated.

The CDC says 83% of the country is now seeing moderate to severe transmission of the virus, with the US registering just over 103,000 new cases Wednesday,  up 43% from a week ago.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky says her agency is studying data on breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated individuals, but those being hit the hardest are unvaccinated Americans. 

"Universally, as we look at our hospitalizations and we look at our deaths, they are overwhelmingly unvaccinated people," Dr. Walensky says.

SEE ALSO: 40% of all COVID-19 hospitalizations in Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana, CDC says

A July study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found the two-dose Pfizer vaccine offered 88% protection against COVID-19 symptoms.

It is still not clear whether booster shots could be needed down the road.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says people with compromised immune systems, such as those who have had an organ transplant or who have an autoimmune disorder, will likely need a third dose of the vaccine because they do not mount an adequate immune response to the vaccines.

"So, in this regard, it is extremely important for us to move to get those individuals their boosters," Fauci says.  "And, we are now working on that and will make that be implemented as quickly as possible. Because for us, and for the individuals involved, it is a very high priority."

Dr. Fauci was asked whether the delta variant, which is now thought to be driving 93% of cases in the US, could evolve into a virus able to evade the vaccine.

"The easiest way to prevent the scenario that you are proposing from happening would be to get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can, to not allow the virus to continue to circulate in the community, giving it ample time to mutate," Fauci says. 

He says mitigation strategies like wearing masks in an indoor setting in areas of high transmission, physically distancing, and staying of crowds will help slow down the spread of the delta variant.  

"The ultimate end game in all of this is vaccination," Dr. Fauci says. "If we continue to vaccinate, and we get that 93 million who are eligible for vaccinations and have not gotten vaccinated if we do that in the immediate, intermediate, and long-term mitigation right now, we will turn the delta surge around. I will guarantee you that will happen if we do what I just outlined."

White House officials say federal COVID-19 surge teams are working with 16 states dealing with a jump in cases.

They are offering COVID-19 testing, a vaccine for mobile clinics, and helping health care systems surge their hospital capacity.

The federal government is also providing monoclonal antibody treatments for those who are infected with the virus who are at increased risk of being hospitalized. 

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