Via Teleconference Washington D.C. July 8 11:05 A.M. EDT
Good morning. Today, before I turn to Dr. Walensky, Dr. Fauci, and Dr. Nunez-Smith, I want to start by talking about why our vaccination program is so critical.
All along, we have said that by getting fully vaccinated, Americans protect themselves, their loved ones, and their communities. Already, in just over five months, thanks to our whole-of-government effort and the hard work of local leaders in communities across the country, more than 182 Americans — 182 million Americans have taken action and rolled up their sleeves to get a shot, and nearly 160 million Americans have gotten fully vaccinated.
Just yesterday, we got a powerful reminder about what's at stake in our vaccination effort from a new report by experts from the Yale School of Public Health. The study states the vaccination campaign markedly curbed the U.S. pandemic and concludes the pace at which we have vaccinated the country has saved more than 100,000 American lives and prevented up to 450,000 hospitalizations. This is further evidence that our whole-of-government strategy is working and has prevented significant further tragedy and disruption to Americans' lives and livelihoods.
More than two out of three adults have at least one shot. As a country, we're closer than ever to ending this pandemic and getting back to normal.
But the sad reality is that, despite our progress, we're still losing people to this virus — which is especially tragic given, at this point, it is unnecessary and preventable. Virtually all COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in the United States are now occurring among unvaccinated individuals. And to be clear, there will likely continue to be an increase in cases among unvaccinated Americans and in communities with low vaccination rates, particularly given the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant.
At the same time, we've already fully vaccinated nearly 80 percent of seniors — those 65 and older and those most at risk. So, despite a potential increase in the number of cases, there will likely be fewer hospitalizations and deaths. The bottom line is there's simply no reason that anyone 12 and older should be severely impacted by this virus.
So our focus is on reaching those who have still not made the choice to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their communities. Over the last six months, we've seen vaccine confidence increase steadily from 34 percent to 68 percent. That is because we've worked hard to get the word out about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines, and because so many Americans have stepped up, gotten their shot, and done their part.
Now, we know that most people who are not yet vaccinated still have to make up their mind. As such, each person in this phase will take longer to reach, but that makes them no less important. And the spread of the Delta variant, which poses a particular threat to our young people, only strengthens our resolve to reach everyone.
Our job is to keep doing all we can to reach Americans where they are, to answer their questions, and to make it as easy as possible for them to get a shot as soon as they are ready. And our goal is simple: Get more and more Americans fully vaccinated.
As the science makes crystal clear, individuals who are fully vaccinated have a very high degree of protection and those who are not fully vaccinated are not protected. So every individual that we vaccinate is a step forward. And across the summer months, we'll vaccinate millions more individuals.
As the President said, we do this by going community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, person by person; by partnering with local leaders, governors, mayors, doctors, school administrators, employers, faith leaders, and community organizers — leaders that people know and trust. One shot at a time. One person at a time.
And the good news is we know this local, community-by-community approach works. In June, we focused much of this work in places with some of the lowest vaccination rates. We worked with local organizations in these communities to make sure people knew where to get a vaccine and how effective the vaccines are against COVID-19. We focused much of this work in states including Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Texas — states with some of the lowest vaccination rates.
Across June, vaccination rates in these states grew faster than the overall national vaccination rate. So we're going to stay at it and continue to make progress. We will get vaccines to more and more family doctors so Americans can get a shot at their doctor's office.
Across the last few months, we've already nearly doubled the number of medical practices receiving vaccine, with tens of thousands of family doctors now administering shots. We will build on this progress and work with pediatricians and other healthcare providers who serve younger people to push to get younger people vaccinated as they see their doctors for back-to- school checkups or get physicals for fall sports.
We will also intensify our efforts to bring vaccines to where many people spend the most time during the week: at workplaces and on school campuses.
At the same time we work with communities to get more shots and arms, we're also mobilizing COVID-19 surge response teams to provide additional support to states in dealing with outbreaks among the unvaccinated.
The COVID-19 surge response teams have begun working with several states to identify and support the state-specific or county-specific needs. This includes states such as Missouri, Nevada, Illinois, and Arkansas. These efforts include providing expert support from the CDC on outbreak investigations; working with local health officials on getting more treatments for people with COVID; and helping states increase vaccine confidence, answer questions, and expand access to vaccinations and testing.
In the days and weeks ahead, we will continue to make sure states have access to the specific federal resources and capabilities they need to fight the virus. And as always, we will continue to keep equity at the center of everything we do, because every person in every community matters.
In closing, America is coming back. Millions are safely living a more normal life. And we have a huge swath of the country vaccinated. We have moved from getting Americans vaccinated at a speed and scale never seen before, to focusing on reaching each individual who remains unvaccinated to ensure they are protected as well.
We push forward with a singular focus: Every shot matters; every individual that we vaccinate is progress. It's another life protected, another community that is safer, and another step toward putting this pandemic behind us that has sadly taken more than 600,000 lives here at home and a total of 4 million lives around the world.
With that, let me hand it over to Dr. Walensky.
Thank you, Jeff. Good morning. Let's begin with an overview of the data. Yesterday, CDC reported a little over 14,000 new cases of COVID-19. Our seven-day average is about 13,900 cases per day. And this represents an increase in cases, of nearly 11 percent, from the prior seven-day average.
The seven-day average of hospital admissions is about 2,000 per day. This also represents an increase of about 7 percent from the prior seven-day average.
And the seven-day average of daily deaths is about 184 per day.
These numbers and what we are seeing across the country reveal two truths about the current state of the pandemic. On the one hand, we have seen the successes of our vaccination program over the last eight months, with cases, hospitalizations, and deaths far lower than the peaks we saw in January. And yet, on the other hand, we are starting to see some new and concerning trends. Simply put, in areas of low vaccination coverage, cases and hospitalizations are up.
Further, we are seeing some small clusters and larger outbreaks of COVID-19 in locations such as camps and community events where proper hard-learned prevention strategies are not enforced and the virus is readily able to thrive.
Meanwhile, the Delta variant is spreading rapidly throughout the country. This week, the Delta variant is estimated to be the most prevalent variant in the United States, representing over 50 percent of sequenced samples across the country, up from 26 percent from the week ending June 19.
And in some parts of the country, the percentage is even higher. For example, in parts of the Midwest and Upper Mountain states, CDC's early sequence data suggests the Delta variant accounts for approximately 80 percent of cases.
Although we expected the Delta variant to become the dominant strain in the United States, this rapid rise is troubling. We know that the Delta variant has increased transmissibility, and it is currently surging in pockets of the country with low vaccination rates.
We also know that our authorized vaccines prevent severe disease, hospitalization, and death from the Delta variant, and results — these results have been observed not just here in the United States, but in other countries as well.
Of course, widespread vaccination is what will truly turn the corner on this pandemic. Please know if you are not vaccinated, you remain susceptible, especially from the transmit — transmissible Delta variant and are particularly at risk for severe illness and death.
I want to share with you my concerns about what we're seeing across the country in areas of low vaccination coverage and in counties with increasing case rates. As shown on the left map in blue, there are 173 counties in the United States that have case rates of greater than or equal to 100 cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days. On the right side of this slide, shown in purple, are the counties in the U.S. that have both vaccine coverage less than 40 percent and cases of greater than or equal to 100 per 100,000 people over the last several days.
Of the 173 counties with the highest case rates, the vast majority — 93 percent — have less than 40 percent vaccination of their residents. These counties are where more than 9 million Americans live and work, and are the locations in the country where we are seeing the increased hospitalizations and deaths among unvaccinated individuals. Many of these counties are also the same locations where the Delta variant represents the large majority of circulating virus. Low vaccination rates in these counties coupled with high case rates and lax mitigation policies that do not protect those who are unvaccinated from disease will certainly and sadly lead to more unnecessary suffering, hospitalizations, and potentially death.
Indeed, as I stated last week, preliminary data from several states over the last few months suggests that 99.5 percent of deaths from COVID-19 in the United States were in unvaccinated people. Those deaths were preventable with a simple, safe shot.
COVID-19 vaccines are free and available to everyone age 12 and up. Vaccinating — vaccination is our leading public health strategy to stop the Delta variant and bring case rates down in these counties.
We are seeing that communities and counties that have high vaccine coverage and low case rates are getting back to normal. Turning the corner on this pandemic, getting back to normal, and stopping the Delta variant requires all of us to do our part and to get vaccinated.
Thank you. I'll now turn things over to Dr. Fauci.
Thank you very much, Dr. Walensky. As you heard from Dr. Walensky, the Delta variant is assuming more and more dominance in this country, particularly in those areas of low vaccination. So the logical question one asks: Is that the vaccines that our — they are — that we are using, how effective are they against the various aspects of disease associated with a Delta variant?
If I could have the first slide.
First, let's take a look at the mRNA vaccines, which are two out of the three vaccines that are used in this country — and mRNA, overwhelmingly, used the most among vaccines.
The real-world setting, as shown here if you ask, cases protected against — the Scotland study — showing that two doses of Pfizer are about 79 percent protective. Symptomatic disease — a study from England — again, two doses of Pfizer: 88 percent. And hospitalizations — again, in England — two doses: 96 percent real-world effectiveness. You can make a quite reasonable assumption that data that are applicable to Pfizer are also applicable to Moderna.
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