US close to having 200 million people fully vaccinated

  • In this Dec. 8 file photo, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, speaks during an event in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

  • Liany Arroyo, director of health and human services for the city of Hartford, holds her daughter, Elysa Mejia-Arroyo, 5, as a volunteer sprays cooling spray on her arm. (Daniela Altimari/Tribune News Service)

The United States was poised to soon surpass more than 200 million people fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 198 million people in the United States were fully vaccinated as of Saturday, accounting for almost 60% of the total population. More than 45 million had also received additional doses.

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According to the Hawaii Department of Health, 71.6% of Hawaii’s 1.42 million-person population was fully vaccinated as of Friday. Of the eligible population age 5 and older, 76.4% had completed the vaccination process. More than 246,000 had received booster doses.

On the Big Island, 64% of the island’s 199,457-person population was fully vaccinated Friday. Just including the eligible population, Hawaii County has seen 68% of residents age 5 and older complete the vaccination process.

On Tuesday, the agency’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said that although health officials were encouraging those eligible to get boosters, the agency was not changing its definition of fully vaccinated to include boosters “right now.”

Many vaccination clinics and local officials are reporting long lines and delays in booking vaccination appointments, which experts said were the product of expanded eligibility for boosters and fears over the new omicron variant, although much remains unknown about the new version.

Mitchel Rothholz, the lead for immunization policy at the American Pharmacists Association, said that pharmacies were moving more to an appointment-based model with the uptick in demand, similar to when vaccines were first rolled out and there was a crush to get them.

The United States still lags behind a range of nations, including Canada, China, France, Japan, Spain and Singapore, in terms of the percentage of the population that is fully vaccinated.

The Biden administration is trying to make getting vaccinated easier. In remarks Thursday on how to fight the delta and omicron variants, President Joe Biden said the government would create hundreds of family-vaccination clinics, one-stop shops for shots and boosters. Partners in a federal pharmacy program, including major chains like CVS and Rite Aid, will also make “family-based scheduling” available in the months ahead, according to the White House.

Since the emergence of the omicron variant, the CDC has strengthened its booster guidance, urging that everyone age 18 and older get one six months after a Pfizer or Moderna series or two months after a Johnson and Johnson shot.

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Dr. Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University, said there were some pockets of the country where vaccines were expiring because demand was low and others where lines were longer than they were a month ago because of greater demand.

But, she said, demand is likely to ease in a few weeks.

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