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Covid-19 vaccines are effective at preventing severe disease, experts say, as rising cases threaten unvaccinated

By Dakin Andone and Travis Caldwell, CNN

With Covid-19 cases rising and the Delta variant gaining increased prevalence in the United States, health experts are reiterating that vaccines are effective in the ways that matter most: preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death.

Speaking to CNN’s Jim Acosta on Saturday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the vaccines are shown to be “highly effective in preventing symptomatic, clinically apparent disease.”

“When you start seeing what’s called breakthrough infections, if you look carefully at them, the overwhelming majority of those are people who either have no symptoms or only very mild symptoms,” Fauci said. “So the vaccines are still very, very effective in preventing severe disease.”

The Delta variant has “pretty much taken over” in the US, said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia and a member of the US Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory committee. But it’s clear the vaccines work against the Delta variant, too, he said.

“Despite the rise of the Delta variant, still 97% of people who are hospitalized or killed by this virus are unvaccinated,” Offit said. “If the Delta variant were escaping, essentially, immunity induced by vaccination, then you should have seen a rise in people who are vaccinated, but nonetheless were still hospitalized and killed. And that hasn’t happened.”

Yet the pace of inoculations is slowing, with less than half of the US population — 48.5%, per the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — fully vaccinated. And it’s the communities with lower vaccination rates that are at risk.

Among those states that have fully vaccinated less than half of their residents, the average Covid-19 case rate was 11 new cases per 100,000 people last week, compared to 4 per 100,000 among states that have fully vaccinated more than half of their residents, according to a CNN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.

“If you are unvaccinated, the risk is incredibly high — and maybe in some areas higher than it’s ever been,” said Dr. Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, adding people are acting a “little more carefree and lackadaisical,” raising the chance of exposure.

Indeed, the number of people traveling by air set a pandemic-era record Friday, with nearly 2.2 million people screened at US airports, a spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration said, adding an admonition: “#MaskUp.”

In the meantime, vaccinated people should “continue to be smart,” but are very unlikely to get sick, be hospitalized or die of Covid-19, Spencer said.

Vaccine efforts turn to young people

Canada and the US were neck and neck early Saturday afternoon in the percentage of fully vaccinated people, according to data from the countries’ governments. So far, 18,286,671 Canadians, or 48.65%, have been fully vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, compared with 160,994,035, or 48.5%, of Americans, according to the CDC data.

In the US, officials are increasingly focused on increasing vaccination rates among younger people.

“Young people sometimes … feel that they’re invulnerable. They need a little, I would say a gentle push — not forcing or threatening, but to get them to understand why it’s important for their own safety,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN on Saturday. “Because as we’re getting more and more infections with the Delta variant … we’re seeing more and more young people who are getting seriously ill.”

To that end, Fauci teamed up with 18-year-old pop star Olivia Rodrigo this week, appearing in a video released by the White House that encourages young people to get vaccinated.

“The sooner all of us get vaccinated, the sooner we can, like, hang out with our friends and sing songs and all of the fun things,” Rodrigo said.

Alabama health officials Friday announced a TikTok contest aimed at increasing Covid-19 vaccination rates among people between the ages of 13 and 29. Contestants are asked to submit a video that shows them getting vaccinated and a message that shares why they chose to do so. Four winners will be chosen to receive a $250 Visa gift card, officials said.

Darrell Hudson, principal of A.H. Parker High School in Birmingham, Alabama, told CNN school officials don’t know how many of their students are vaccinated, and “some are still a little concerned about taking the vaccine and what’s in the vaccine.” But he said he’s hopeful students will get the shot, along with their families, so they can safely return to the classroom August 2.

“We don’t want any child coming to our campus, taking the virus back home to parents, to grandparents, to aunties and to their relatives,” Hudson said.

As for vaccines for even younger children, studies continue, Fauci told CNN.

“Thus far, things look good, but the final decision is going to be up to the FDA,” Fauci said. “And I would imagine that likely will not happen until we get well into the winter, towards the end of this year.”

Additionally, Fauci said he “would be astounded” if the Covid-19 vaccine by Pfizer/BioNTech didn’t receive full FDA approval for people 16 and older by the end of August (each vaccine available in the US has been authorized for emergency use, but they have yet to be fully approved). The companies announced Friday the FDA had granted priority review designation to their application for approval for their vaccine.

“But even between now and then, people should realize that the data of the efficacy and real-world effectiveness of these vaccines is really extraordinary — not only in the United States, but in multiple countries throughout the world,” Fauci said.

‘I don’t think we’ve seen the worst of it’

Local officials continue to sound the alarm about the increase in cases, particularly among those unvaccinated. Twenty states have fully vaccinated more than half of their residents, according to the CDC, but health care facility resources are being stretched in states with fewer vaccinations.

Only a fourth of residents in Mobile County, Alabama, are fully vaccinated, Commissioner Merceria Ludgood said at a news conference Friday. And now the county is seeing a massive increase in hospitalizations, according to Dr. Laura Cepeda, chief medical officer of the Mobile County Health Department, who said there’s been a 400% increase in hospitalizations in the past month.

Mayor Sandy Stimpson encouraged those who have gotten the shots to talk with their loved ones and neighbors.

“Today, we have sports heroes, we have rock stars, we have movie stars, coaches encouraging people all across this country to get vaccinated,” Stimpson said. “But if you’ve been vaccinated, don’t underestimate your ability to reach out to someone and encourage them to do it. You may be that person to convince them that this is the right thing to do.”

Katie Towns, acting director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department in Missouri, told CNN Friday the department is requesting an alternative care site and staff from the state to address the growing number of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, saying, “It’s at a level that we’ve not seen before,”

“Most striking is the demographic and age,” she said of Covid-19 patients, “almost all” of whom are unvaccinated. “The illness has really shifted from being an older population … to being ages 20, 30, 40 years old in the hospital and needing ICU care and oxygen.”

And hospitals and health officials are projecting an increase in numbers following the Fourth of July holiday.

“I don’t think we’ve seen the worst of it,” Towns said.

The return of mask guidelines

But even in areas with higher rates of vaccination, officials are beginning to reinstitute safety protocols such as mask mandates to try to curb the spread.

Health authorities in the San Francisco Bay Area on Friday announced they are recommending everyone wear masks indoors.

And Los Angeles County will reinstate its indoor mask mandate Saturday night for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. The county’s public health department reported 1,827 new cases Saturday, a fourfold increase in the number of cases reported on July 4.

George Metsos, owner of Patys Restaurant in Los Angeles, told CNN the mask mandates have been confusing, and the changing guidance doesn’t help.

“They say follow the science. Well, they said don’t wear masks if you’re vaccinated. Now put the mask on if you’re vaccinated,” Metsos said. “I need to protect my customers, I need to protect my employees and I have to follow the rules, but I’m very in touch with the American public: They’re very frustrated.”

Amid growing concern, local authorities “do have the discretion of going that extra mile or going the extra step it takes to make sure that the spread of this virus is really contained,” Fauci told NBC’s “Nightly News with Lester Holt.” “And they do that by saying that everyone should wear a mask.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story included incorrect information about the number and percentage of Canadians fully vaccinated for Covid-19.

™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas, Jen Christensen, Jacqueline Howard, Laine Mackey, Deidre McPhillips, Leyla Santiago and Sara Weisfeldt contributed to this report.

Coronavirus / video - DO NOT USE

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  1. Being vaxxed or not does not address the main problem- from day one- “Underlying Conditions”. Right now- non-vaxxed are creating the herd immunity that will save the planet- props to them !

      1. Millions, if not Billions of people world wide have been exposed to covid19, showed no symptoms, or (like me) recovered just fine. People who have been vaccinated are getting it still. Don’t fall for the hysteria that this is a 100% fatal disease killing everything and everyone in its path. You are being LIED to.

          1. Reputable? CNN has been caught on camera discussing their plans to push Covid fear, scare the public…but they’re reputable? Project Veritas has lots of fun videos of multiple “reputable” news outlets. You should all check them out if you want to learn about the MSN and their agenda. The media is failing and polling proves it. CNN only has a couple viewers left…yet their articles are shared on KTVZ as if they come from a reputable new agency.
            These are the same people that pushed the Russian collusion story for years, but don’t want to cover the fraud that occurred in the 2020 election.

            Fun update on Maricopa County Arizona:
            Remember Biden “won” by 10,457 votes

            At the senate hearing a couple days ago they released a little info…but there is much more to come.

            So far
            3,981 voted registering after Oct. 15 deadline
            11,326 voted who were not on the rolls on Nov. 7th but we’re on Dec. 4th
            18,000 voted and then were removed from rolls after election
            74,243 mail-in-ballots with no evidence of ever being sent out.

            If that’s not enough to convince you just sit tight much more to come in just a few weeks.
            Other states are starting to discover the same as Arizona. Why is no reputable new source talking about this?

            Oh, and it’s not just the Democrats that cheat, there are also dirty Republicans.

              1. Nope. You can’t say the audit results are false because those accused of the crime deny it. The senate has invited the board to come forward and prove them wrong. Instead they take to the media to spin the false narrative. Curious, if this goes to court and the big lie is no longer a conspiracy, will you then agree your reputable sources aren’t reputable? Will you then seek other news sources?

                You can’t deny the media has an agenda, the public knows it and things are spinning out of control fast.

                1. I don’t speak for all the ‘media.’ I am the same reporter I was out of college. Presenting facts as much as possible, despite the changing divisiveness and hate of the audience.

                2. In response to your comment below (no reply option available).
                  There is no hate – playing the victim is over rated.
                  You don’t refute any thing I have said above because it is accurate.

                3. I don’t believe Barney even read the link to his story- On this topic- “74,243 mail-in ballots where there is no clear record of them being sent”… Arizona officials have no proof of otherwise… and this- “Rod Thomson, a public relations consultant working for Cyber Ninjas, said Maricopa County refused to answer questions posed by the audit team”… I’ve never not answered to any kind of audit- and I get em all the time- these guys are hiding- delaying-and now spinning… None of which is the job of one Digi-Co-Tator BL ! So why is he doing it ???

            1. Believe me, I know reporters. If there was any evidence of widespread election fraud out there someone would have found it. Someone would have approached a reporter with the info, and 99.9999999999% of reporters would go with that story no matter their political beliefs. Why? Because that story would guarantee a Pulitzer, a book deal, a movie deal, and said reporter would be a talking head on places like CNN for the rest of their lives. NO reporter would pass that up. Really, none would. Trump did not win. Period. But you know that, just like he probably does as well.

              1. Actually – there are reporters discussing it. Just because you did not read it on CNN or KTVZ doesn’t mean that it did not happen. Arizona attorney general is now involved. Judges across the US are seeing evidence and allowing forensic audits to go forward.
                Have not you heard but the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (who have been fighting the audit all along (cause they’re guilty)) now admit that “yea our system was hacked on Election Day”?
                Please come back in a few weeks when the entire Arizona report is released and defend the reporters you know then. Oh, follow Georgia too 🙂 starting to heat up there as well.
                As mentioned previously this is not isolated to one party. Both Dems and Repubs, are guilty as this has been happening for years. To further prove my point you can watch videos of our current Vice President discussing how easy it is for voter fraud to occur prior to her current position. There are dozens more of prominent Democrats who voiced the same concerns prior to the election. Once they cheated Trump out of office they then say our elections are secure. Search YouTube for these video.

                1. Delusional Trumper. He lost. Believe anything different go tell Q.

                2. Nope. Never read anything from Q. Heard about him…don’t believe him.

                  Notice, like Barney, you don’t argue what I’ve stated. Instead you either play victim or refer to me as a delusional Trumper. Instead of looking into the possibility of voter fraud, you assume it’s not possible because your go to news sources say it didn’t happen.

                  It happened – I don’t want to spill the beans but Trump won electoral vote as well as the popular vote.

                  Gonna be a hot August! 😁

                3. You are right… “Judges across the US are seeing evidence and allowing forensic audits to go forward.”… Georgia is now in- looking to audit their election results. The stuff coming out of Arizona will be catastrophic for the left- everything from missing routers to duplicated ballots- same smears- same smudges- 100% duplicate. The problem- how to insert the actual winner and avoid civil unrest- and if you don’t insert the real winner- what now ? I said it early and often- this aint gonna end well at all.

                4. Trump lost, get over it. And you need to prove your statements not the other way around it.

                5. Martha – did you read what I wrote? Barneygetshiswish and I have laid out only a small sample of what’s coming out of these audits. You choose not to believe. If your waiting for CNN/KTVZ or most other MSM to tell you that major fraud occurred that’s your issue. I’d be happy to spend the time and lay everything out for you, but I’m not sure it will make any difference.

          2. No, but CNN continues to fuel the panic with the scary delta variant whicn is more contagious but not as severe. And Biden claims social media is killing people while he, abruptly, pulled out of Afghanistan leaving them to be overrun by the Taliban

              1. CNN quotes liars- con men and glory hounds. When Fauci was telling you not to wear a mask- I called BS for weeks. When Kate Brown was all over CNN and told you to take off yer masks- I called BS- told you to keep it handy- Now Nevada and Cali are going back to masks ! Thems the folks you quoting- then please stop- yer risking lives !

              2. Our former President stopped bombing Syria and Iraqi citizens years ago. When you mention our former President- show some respect and use his name- President Donald J Trump- Damn yer petty !

            1. We have seen no legitimate stories on the vaccine CAUSES deaths in healthy people. If that happens locally, we’d of course look into it, if made aware. But all the national stories (which we don’t write) we’ve seen have been either of a very small number (compared to millions with no ill effects) of folks falling ill after receiving the vaccine – but correlation does NOT prove causation. If legitimate health experts said there were large numbers of vaccine-CAUSED deaths, it would raise a legitimate furor.
              Then there’s the folks who think it’ll happen months, years after vaccination. We have no control over those beliefs.

              1. Such BS ! “no legitimate stories on the vaccine CAUSES deaths”… Because that’s not how the CDC is reporting them ! Instead- the 6000 deaths on record are being reported as deaths in a short time frame “after vaccination”- doesn’t mean that the vaccine “didn’t” cause these deaths- there is just not enough info- and nobody wants to check !

              2. I know this is a late post on this thread but I just reread your comment. “If legitimate health experts said there were large numbers of vaccine-CAUSED deaths, it would raise a legitimate furor.” That is exactly why the message is being meticulously curated, and why Biden wants all information that does comply with the party line purged from social media.

            1. Your numbers are within a 10 month period. The FDA and CDC have stated that less than half that number of deaths with seasonal flu viruses and other related drugs have occurred over a ten-fifteen year period… I can’t believe Barney is promoting this vaccine BS- I’ll wait for the FDA final approval- which will take much longer- now that the deaths and complications are mounting.

      2. It aint Ebola dummy- 97% survival rate- you clearly have “underlying conditions”- which is why this virus scares you like Biden in the room with Trump !

  2. There have been almost 200 million cases “reported” world-wide- The CDC says that this should be multiplied by three- that’s 600 million- on our way to a Billion. Stop the fear mongering scare tactics Mr. Lerten- it ain’t Ebola- millions have recovered just fine and dandy world wide… and you will too. So go get yerself a dose and promote herd immunity- this vaccine nonsense has failed under Biden… Data don’t lie !

    1. Cmon Harg- Barney can’t help himself… he’s all in for Kovid Kate- Joey Biden- and the new woke generation… I guess it keeps him feeling young !

  3. All the MAGA anti vaxer Clowns here day in and day out with their ridiculous reasoning trying to convince themselves they have nothing to fear. Meanwhile, everyone else has moved on.

    1. Tell that to the 7000 deaths caused by the vaxx, or myocarditis, or guidance barre…..AND these are healthy people that had a 99% chance of survival if they got the vid. I thought one death was too many? Funny how you spin your kurap opinion.

        1. Doesn’t matter- the virus you oh so fear- has a 99% recovery rate among persons under 70… which means they not only survive a mild virus- but also help the nation develop herd immunity- which is the only way out of this attack !

        2. Let’s apply your mantra “correlation does NOT prove causation” to the elderly people with underlying conditions that are counted as covid deaths.

  4. Everyone else has moved on…you’re here. I think you’re upset because for over a year the media has been trying to create fear…and we don’t buy it. If you’re fine with that then so are we, so let’s move on. The trouble is the government and media want us to be afraid, and until they’re convinced we live in fear Covid will be here. Delta variant is here, better mask up.

    By the way, there are plenty on the left who don’t want jab either.

      1. Poor spin Martha- why don’t you tell us all the exact underlying condition that has you so afraid of a mild virus. So mild- that if you get it- you get Tylenol and Robitussin from your medical provider. Now come clean- or I’ve proved you wrong !

      2. I don’t want anyone to be afraid. If I remember correctly it was the left blaming Trump supporters for not wearing masks, and causing Covid to drag on, just a month ago. I would think that since we were not wearing our masks, and therefor “responsible for the spread of Covid”, that would also mean we’re not afraid of it?? I’m pretty sure I know how you’ll respond to this, but I’ll give you the chance before discussing your follow up. 😜
        When you say I’m living in a conspiracy land, what are you referring to?

    1. I agree- the only ones still fearing this mild virus are those with some serious underlying conditions. The ones who smoked too many bongs- drank too much hooch- didn’t eat that apple a day- poor genes… I’m sure they all have an excuse- but that’s not my concern. My Body My Temple- Kalamity kate can shove another slice of crow pie in her mouth- I aint budgin’ !

  5. The headline is misleading. While I understood what it meant, two of my neighbors and my sister thought it meant ANY severe disease and were upset that Z21 was trying to con people into taking it.

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