The campaign to get more Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 is an effort that spans local neighborhoods all the way to the White House.
This combination of local and national efforts became a singular goal on Tuesday, as Dr.Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, virtually met a handful of mayors with the United States National Conference of Mayors, including Columbia Mayor Steve. Benjamin.
Fauci has heard from several mayors talking about the efforts they are undertaking in their respective cities to increase vaccination rates against COVID-19. Columbia is one of more than 100 U.S. cities that are part of the Mayors Challenge, a competition to determine which city can increase its immunization rate the most by July 4. The competition was announced in early June by the Biden administration.
Biden has set an ambitious goal for at least 70% of Americans to receive at least one COVID-19 vaccine by July 4. The White House publicly acknowledged on Tuesday that the nation was likely to be just short of that target. New York Times analysis shows the United States will likely have around 67% of adults at least partially immunized by Independence Day. White House pandemic response coordinator Jeffrey D. Zients told a press conference on Tuesday that it could take “a few more weeks” beyond July 4 for 70% of adults are at least partially vaccinated.
In Tuesday’s conversation with mayors, Fauci said he wanted to see the United States increase well beyond 70% of partially vaccinated citizens as the summer progresses.
“This (July 4 benchmark) is an ambitious goal,” Fauci said. “It’s not the end of the game and it’s not the goal line. The goal line is way beyond. After the summer starts, we want to crush this epidemic, which means we want to do even better than that. What this really means is that we’re not quite done yet.
“Despite the fact that we are doing well, we do not want to claim victory prematurely.”
In South Carolina, 3.6 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, according to data from the HC Department of Health and Environmental Control. About 40.6% of South Carolina residents are fully immunized, and 47% of state residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
In the Columbia area, statistics from DHEC show that nearly 50% of residents of Richland County have received at least one injection of the COVID vaccine. In neighboring Lexington County, nearly 49% received at least one injection.
State health service reported only 49 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, with 155 coronavirus patients in public hospitals. At one point in January, there were more than 2,400 COVID-19 patients in South Carolina hospitals.
While the United States has recently gained more in control of COVID-19, Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has expressed concern, in particular, about the Delta variant of COVID-19, which has ravaged India and is now the dominant coronavirus train in the UK.
“The Delta variant is a variant of the virus that is highly transmissible, more than the virus we have traditionally faced,” Fauci told mayors. “It can also give you more serious illness. … If you are vaccinated you are very, very well protected (against the variant). If you are not vaccinated you are really at risk.
Fauci said the Delta variant will “inevitably become more dominant” than other strains of COVID in the United States
As the national group of mayors continue their campaign for vaccines, the city of Columbia has also launched its own campaign – called It’s YOUR shot, Columbia – to try and increase vaccination rates. The town’s campaign uses TV and radio ads, social media platforms, billboards and inserts in residents’ water bills to send the message that vaccines are free and readily available in the Midlands and throughout South Carolina.
Benjamin, former president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, told Fauci that, thanks to the It’s YOUR Shot campaign, the city has been and will continue to cover Columbia with a pro-vaccination message.
“We’re doing as much constant community outreach as possible because we just can’t stop,” Benjamin said. “Here in our community right now, as we see a significant deceleration (in new cases) from where we were awhile ago, without much deeper penetration of vaccination, we’re going to start to see a slight increase.
“We are asking people to step up their games and realize that, yes, even in Colombia and South Carolina people are still dying from the virus.”
The mayor of Columbia said the city is engaging with barber shops, beauty salons, fraternities and sororities to enhance vaccination efforts, and is even “packing” a fire truck, garbage truck and a ice cream truck with messages supporting vaccination.