Expert says US needs to 'pick up pace' on vaccination efforts to hit President Biden's July 4 goal

An expert says if the U.S. don't make a serious push, the country will miss the July 4 goal for 70% of the country to be vaccinated from COVID-19.


Related video above: Biden pushes more vaccines for 'summer of freedom'

Despite signs of normalcy returning across America, from in-person graduations to maskless Memorial Day celebrations, experts warn the country needs to redouble its efforts to get more people vaccinated by July 4.

The U.S. reached its peak of daily vaccinations on April 1, with more than 4.3 million people getting inoculated in one day, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since then, numbers have dropped to an average of 560,000 daily within the last week.

President Joe Biden has called for 70% of all adults to have received at least one shot by July 4. But a recent CNN analysis of CDC data found the U.S. won't likely hit the target until mid-to-late July.

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, agrees the country isn't on track to hit the milestone. "So we've got to redouble of our efforts," he told CNN. "States really have to pick up pace. If we just keep going at the status quo, I don't think we're going to hit that 70% by July 4."

State leaders have offered incentives ranging from free beer to lottery tickets to encourage more people to get vaccinated.

CDC data shows 63.7% of Americans have received their first dose of vaccine — but misunderstandings about the dangers of transmission and the need for vaccinations could put more people at risk, Jha said.

"I understand that in the short run we may get away with it, having slow vaccination rates," he explained. "But those people really are vulnerable — once we have more variants circulating in the United States — to get reinfected and potentially get very sick."

CDC data shows that roughly one in three Americans were infected with COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic.

But while people who have been infected may think they now have natural immunity, they may not be accounting for the danger posed by variants, Jha said.

Misunderstandings around vaccines lead to hesitancy

In Mississippi, the state with the lowest vaccination rate in the country, the governor has attributed residents' hesitancy to the idea of natural immunity.

CDC data shows that less than 45% of adults in the state have had at least one dose of the vaccine, and only 35.7% are fully vaccinated.

"We've got somewhere between a million or so Mississippians that have natural immunity, and because of that, there is very, very, very little virus in our state," Gov. Reeves told CNN on Sunday.

Reeves and his wife have both been vaccinated, and he said he believes the vaccine is safe and effective. However, the governor called Biden's goal "arbitrary," and said the 320,000 Mississippians who have tested positive for the virus could have natural immunity.

The governor said case numbers and hospitalizations are down significantly in his state, so while he encourages people to get vaccinated, he feels people have the right to make their own choices.

"This is a bit of a misunderstanding that unfortunately a lot of people have," Jha said. "There is this idea that if you've been infected, that you have natural immunity, that you don't need to get vaccinated.

"There is no doubt about it in my mind that a vaccine-induced immunity is much more durable and is going to hold up much better against the variants," he added.

The CDC published data Monday that showed that even rare breakthrough infections — people testing positive for COVID-19 despite being vaccinated — create a milder disease response.

People who got "breakthrough" infections after one or two doses of vaccine had 40% less virus in their bodies and were 58% less likely to have a fever. They also spent two fewer days in bed than unvaccinated COVID-19 patients, according to the study.

"The only way to be protected is to be fully vaccinated," Jha said, adding that people need to receive both shots. "This is why everybody needs a second dose."