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Vaccination rates tick upward in states with surging Covid cases

Amid rising cases of Covid-19 across the country, states with the biggest increases are also reporting an uptick in vaccinations.

“In the past week, the five states with the highest case rates — Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri and Nevada — had a higher rate of people getting newly vaccinated compared to the national average,” Jeff Zients, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator, said during a White House briefing Thursday. “People in these states are feeling the impact of being unvaccinated and responding with action.”

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According to NBC News data, the United States is averaging 699 first doses per 100,000 residents in the past seven days. That’s up from 590 the week before.

In Louisiana, which has the highest rate of new infections in the country, the current vaccination rate is 964 first doses per 100,000 residents, according to an NBC News analysis. In Arkansas, the state with the second highest infection rate, vaccination rates are even higher, at 2,128.

These are states with among the lowest Covid-19 vaccination rates. Just over 36 percent of adults in Louisiana, for example, are fully vaccinated.

The current surge is being driven by the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week the variant now accounts for 83 percent of new cases in the country.

Dr. Steppe Mette, chief executive officer for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Medical Center in Little Rock, said the recent uptick may be attributed to more positive messaging about vaccination reaching the people who need to hear it.

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“I’m starting to see a different way of presenting the message, including testimonials by everyday people that have got sick and have recovered,” he said. “That has a different way of carrying a message than a talking head, a public health official like myself, or, even a news anchor.”

Seeing others close to them get sick can also be a wake-up call, said Dr. Cameron Wolfe, an infectious diseases expert and an associate professor of medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine.

“I hate for people to get sick, to wake up and realize that this hasn’t gone, and that there is an easy tool in front of them that they can use to break this pandemic,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it is pleasing to see people make what I think is clearly the right decision.”

As of Friday, more than 162 million people in the U.S. were fully vaccinated — just over 57 percent of those eligible for the shots, ages 12 and older. That leaves 43 percent still vulnerable to Covid-19.

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