With around 48% of the population fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of July 7, and vaccination being an essential component for a full reopening of the economy, Missouri is one of the lowest ranked states for vaccination rates.
As of Monday, July 12, the seven-day average of new cases in Missouri was near 1,400 new positive cases each day, up more than 150% from a month ago. The Show-Me state also has the second-highest positive COVID-19 testing rate and COVID-19 death rate in the country.
“I understand the hesitancy and concern,” Dr. Sandeep Rohatgi, a pediatrician in St. Louis, said. “However, people are taking a greater risk by not being vaccinated.”
While most states have fully reopened, citizens will only be able to get back to life as it was before the pandemic once most of the population is fully vaccinated against coronavirus.
“I think almost 90% of the population should receive the vaccine,” Rohatgi said.
A recent study compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across five key metrics in order to find out which states are the “safest” during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this study, Missouri was ranked at the bottom due to the recent spike in COVID-19 positive tests and deaths.
“I feel we have an opportunity here that if more people get vaccinated that we can change the trajectory of the COVID here,” Rohatgi said. “Unfortunately, the statistics show that we do not have enough people vaccinated here, but we have some time, although it’s getting shorter, to change this.”
Missouri is ranked number forty out of the states for vaccination rates, which is below the average of twenty-five, according to the study.
With Missouri being called “the epicenter” of spiking COVID rates, Gov. Parson was critical of President Biden’s plan to have volunteers go door-to-door to provide information and speak directly with vaccine hesitant residents.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that political games like those of Parson’s and Missouri Republicans are not helping with the crisis.
"What we're trying to do is to just put politics aside, this is no time for politics,” he said.
“This is a public health issue and viruses, and public health don't know the difference between a Democrat and Republican or an Independent.
An ABC News/ Washington Post poll recently found that 93% of Democrats said they were vaccinated or planning to get vaccinated. Only 49% of Republicans said the same.
Many attendees at last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) cheered when there was mention of low vaccination rates.
"We've got to get away from the divisiveness that has really been a problem right from the very beginning with this outbreak," Fauci said.
When asked about barriers, Rohatgi talked about community access to vaccines.
“Access has improved over the last four months,” Rohatgi said. “People can go to their local pharmacy and get vaccinated.”
According to Rohatgi, 99% of new COVID cases and deaths are attributed to individuals who have not received the vaccine. Vaccines are the main defense against COVID-19 and the delta variant.
“There are clinics that are set up throughout the community that will offer individuals the first shot,” Rohatgi said. “I think that there is a lot of vaccine hesitancy, which I appreciate since the vaccine is new and the fear surrounding it is natural, but hundreds of millions of people have already safely received this vaccine.”
Vaccine hesitancy is a concern of American citizens, but Rohatgi talked about how safe it is for those who have received it so far.
“What we are seeing is that the safety of the vaccine is far greater than what we anticipated,” Rohatgi said. “The risk of getting COVID-19 right now is higher than any potential concern that we are seeing for the vaccine.”
“The delta variant is showing to be virulent in addition to spreading more easily and causing more serious illness; the best way to fight this is to get the vaccine,” Rohatgi said.
Other notable disparities are the high rankings Missouri holds for hospitalization rates and transmission rate.
“Hopefully, if we can see a downward trend in COVID cases around the country, that will allow people to feel more comfortable to get out more,” Rohatgi said. “Unfortunately, we are seeing a reverse trend in Missouri, although I have hope that we still have an opportunity to change this through encouraging folks to get the vaccine.”