Young, unvaccinated people are showing up at hospitals with Covid-19 — in some cases being admitted to intensive care and put on ventilators — in disturbing numbers, health officials across the country have warned.
Vaccination rates among younger people are lower than among older Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency’s data show that slightly fewer than half of people in the U.S. ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 39 are fully vaccinated. The number is even lower for children 12 to 18, who have been eligible to be vaccinated for months.
Officials urge younger people to roll up their sleeves and get the shots.
“Please be safe and if you are 12 or older — please protect yourself,” read a tweet by Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi’s health officer.
Seven children in Mississippi were hospitalized in intensive care with the coronavirus, Dobbs said. Two are on ventilators, he tweeted Tuesday.
In a Twitter post Monday, Dobbs said a “vast majority” of the hospitalizations and deaths are among people who were not vaccinated. According to NBC News’ data, only 33.5 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, the delta variant is spreading rapidly across the U.S.
Officials have warned that the delta variant is more contagious and potentially deadlier. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, has said the variant is the “greatest threat” to eliminating the coronavirus.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said the “worst is yet to come” with the delta variant. Gottlieb is a board member for Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company that is offering a two-dose vaccine.
“The delta variant is going to move its way through the country over the course of August and September, maybe into October. That’s what the modeling shows, that’s what we expected, that the peak of this epidemic would really be sometime around the end of September, back-to-school season,” he said Wednesday on CNBC. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better in terms of the spread of this infection right now.”
President Joe Biden is urging Americans to get vaccinated as quickly as possible because of the delta variant, especially young people, who he said are more at risk.
“The data is clear: If you are unvaccinated, you’re at risk of getting seriously ill or dying or spreading it,” Biden said at a White House news conference last month.
“It is a variant that is more easily transmissible, potentially deadlier and particularly dangerous for young people,” he said.
As of July 7, just over 6 million children had been fully vaccinated, according to a CDC data analysis. That represents 36 percent of 16- and 17-year-olds and 24 percent of children 12 to 15.
NBC News has reported that Covid-19 case numbers and hospitalizations have particularly increased in states that lean Republican, where vaccination rates are well below the national average.
Dr. Dana Hawkinson, an infectious disease physician at the University of Kansas Health System, said he has noticed hospitalizations rising among young, otherwise healthy people.
“We are seeing patients in their 20s and 30s who are otherwise healthy who are coming because of worsening symptoms … today, in the hospital, in the ICU, who are needing to have ventilator and high oxygen support,” he said. “Again, because they’re unvaccinated. It is completely preventable if you get vaccinated.”
NBC News’ data show that just over 42 percent of the population in Kansas is fully vaccinated. According to the Department of Health and Environment, the state averaged 371 new Covid-19 cases a day for the seven days that ended Monday. That was the highest number in more than four months, since the data showed an average of 4,040 new cases a day for the seven days that ended Feb. 26.
The delta variant and the number of unvaccinated young people have also been concerns for health officials in St. Louis County, Missouri.
Two weeks ago, “there were 89 patients admitted to ICU beds for Covid-related conditions across the St. Louis metro area,” Dr. Faisal Khan, director of the county’s Public Health Department, said on MSNBC. “Each of those individuals was unvaccinated, and they were from the relatively younger age group between 18 to 50.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me if we see more cases in children,” he said.
Some Americans have been hesitant to be vaccinated for a number of reasons, from suspicions over how quickly the vaccines were produced to concerns that they could cause side effects or long-term health problems. The CDC has issued data that show the vaccines are safe and effective.
Khan said on MSNBC that although some people are uncertain about getting the shots, he has seen a large number who change their mind after a family member or a close friend gets the shots and then continues “living life as close to normal as possible.”