Report: Vaccination rates rise as Delta sweeps the U.S.

August saw a rise in COVID-19 vaccination rates as people seek to avoid the more transmissible Delta variant.

COVID-19 vaccination rates rose in August as the highly transmissible Delta variant continued to cause surges across the country.

According to a report from NPR, the White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeffrey Zients says that about 14 million residents received their first dose of the life-saving vaccines in August; about a 4 million jump from the month prior. He chalked the increase up to vaccine mandates implemented by governments, schools, and businesses.

The report also cites comments from the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, saying that she hopes that the recent full approval of the Pfizer vaccine would spur even more vaccinations before the Labor Day holiday.

On Aug. 23, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fully approved the Pfizer-BionTech COVID-19 vaccine for use in people age 16 and older, the first COVID vaccine to receive such approval.

The Pfizer vaccine, along with one manufactured by Moderna, had been operating under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) since December 2020 for people age 16 and older, while Johnson & Johnson’s Jansen vaccine received an EUA in February 2021. The FDA is still reviewing Moderna’s application for full authorization. Johnson & Johnson has not yet applied for full authorization.

A study from the National Institutes of Health found that the currently available COVID-19 vaccines have cut the number of fatalities due to the disease by nearly 140,000. The researchers estimate that the economic value of saving these lives was between $625 billion and $1.4 trillion.

The reduction in deaths varied in different states with vaccinations in New York leading to an estimated 11.7 fewer COVID-19 deaths per 10,000 while Hawaii saw the smallest reduction at just 1.1 fewer deaths per 10,000.

Boosters are coming

The federal government will make third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines available to all American next month.

Reportedly, the decision came after the administration reviewed a wide array of data and concluded that the additional shots are needed to maintain immunity against COVID-19. For now, the administration will not recommend an additional dose for those who received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine as the government still reviews data.

The move comes as the Delta variant has driven up the numbers of COVID-19 infections across the country and has led to a rash of breakthrough infections among the already vaccinated.

Earlier in the month, when the move was hinted at by administration officials, they said it would be dependent on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization, but there’s been no reports of a timeline for such authorization.

The agency has already expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer and Moderna two-dose vaccines to allow for a third dose to the estimated 3 percent of Americans, or about 9 million, with weakened immune systems. The vaccines are believed to be less effective in this group of people, but the initial hope was that widespread vaccinations would protect the immunocompromised population. As of Aug. 25, slightly more than half of eligible Americans, 167.1 million, have been fully vaccinated.