Anthony Fauci is worried about the emergence of “almost two types of America” as vaccination rates vary widely by region. Around 99 percent of recent COVID-19 deaths in the United States involved unvaccinated people, the country’s top infectious disease expert said, characterizing it as a “tragic” situation. “It’s terrible, particularly for those of us who’ve dealt with diseases in which you don’t have an effective countermeasure,” Fauci said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “When you have a situation like you have today—where you have a formidable enemy in the virus that has tragically really disrupted our planet for a year and a half … and yet we do have a countermeasure that’s highly, highly effective.”
Even as general vaccination rates increase across the country, the delta variant could lead to a sharp rise in cases in areas where hesitancy is particularly high. There’s a “disparity in the willingness to be vaccinated,” Fauci said. “So there are some states where the level of vaccination of individuals is 35% or less. Under those circumstances, you might expect to see spikes in certain regions, in certain states, cities, or counties.” That likely increase means even fully vaccinated people should “go the extra mile” and make an effort to wear masks in areas where vaccination rates are low.
Fauci called on people to stop thinking about vaccines as a political issue and merely recognize that they save lives. “We’re dealing with a historic situation with this pandemic, and we do have the tools to counter it,” he said. “So for goodness’ sake, put aside all of those differences and realize that the common enemy is the virus.” In much of the world, Fauci said, there are people “who would do anything to get vaccines.”
Fauci’s plea came as a Washington Post/ABC News poll released on Sunday revealed that only 45 percent of Republicans have received at least one shot, compared to 86 percent of Democrats. While only 6 percent of Democrats say they aren’t likely to get vaccinated, almost half of Republicans—47 percent—say the same thing. Almost four in 10 Republicans say they will definitely not get vaccinated against COVID-19 while 22 percent of independents feel the same way. Among the unvaccinated, 60 percent say U.S. officials are exaggerating the risk of the delta variant.
In May, President Joe Biden had set the goal of giving 70 percent of the population at least one COVID-19 shot by July 4. In the end, only 20 states, Washington, D.C. and two territories reached that goal.