In Arkansas, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation, with only about 33% of the population fully protected, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are rising.
“It is sad to see someone go to the hospital or die when it can be prevented,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson tweeted as he urged people to get their shots.
In Seattle’s King County, the public health department found only three deaths during a recent 60-day period in people who were fully vaccinated. The rest, some 95% of 62 deaths, had had no vaccine or just one shot.
“Those are all somebody’s parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends,” said Dr. Mark Del Beccaro, who helps lead a vaccination outreach program in King County. “It’s still a lot of deaths, and they’re preventable deaths.”
In the St. Louis area, more than 90% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have not been vaccinated, said Dr. Alex Garza, a hospital administrator who directs a metropolitan-area task force on the outbreak.
“The majority of them express some regret for not being vaccinated,” Garza said. “That’s a pretty common refrain that we’re hearing from patients with COVID.”
The stories of unvaccinated people dying may convince some people they should get the shots. Still, young adults — the group least likely to be vaccinated — may be motivated more by a desire to protect their loved ones, said David Michaels, an epidemiologist at George Washington University’s school of public health in the nation’s capital.
Michaels said that others need to be paid time off to get the shots and deal with any side effects. This month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration began requiring health care employers, including hospitals and nursing homes, to provide such time off. But Michaels, who headed OSHA under President Barack Obama, said the agency should have gone further and applied the rule to meat and poultry plants and other food operations and other places with workers at risk.
Bagne, who lived alone, ran a business helping people incorporate their companies in Wyoming for the tax advantages. He was winding down the industry, planning to retire, when he got sick, emailing his sister in April about an illness that had left him dizzy and disoriented.
“Whatever it was. That bug took a LOT out of me,” he wrote. As his health deteriorated, a neighbor finally persuaded him to go to the hospital. “Why was the messaging in his state so unclear that he didn’t understand the importance of the vaccine? He was a very bright guy,” his sister said. “I wish he’d gotten the vaccine, and I’m sad he didn’t understand how it could prevent him from getting COVID.”
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.