As the spread of COVID-19 across the United States slows considerably, experts remain worried that slow vaccination rates and new variants could trigger another rapid rise in the number of cases. Only 12% of American adults have received at least one dose of vaccine. A much smaller 4.2% have received the two that are necessary to complete the process. The pace of vaccination varies widely by state.
The number of people infected in America continues to be a large percentage of the global total. Total U.S. confirmed cases have reached 27,939,592, which is about 25% of all the world’s infections. Fatal cases numbers 490,672. Scientists still believe this figure could reach 600,000 by the summer.
Nationwide, 70,057,800 doses of vaccine have been delivered. Of these, 52,884,356 shots (75%) have been given. In many locations, vaccine doses are not available, so even those eligible, like people over 65, continue to wait.
The state that has had the most success by far is Alaska. There, 17% of adults have been given at least one dose. The state’s record for second doses, at 7.8%, is also the nation’s highest. Alaska has received 271,550 doses and has given 183,831, which is 68%, somewhat below the national number.
Alaska Public Media, part of PBS, reported on why the state has done so well. The Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Indian Health Service have been given priority as vaccination doses have been delivered. Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, told the news outlet:
We have the highest veterans per capita population. We have a large military presence. And we have a large Indigenous population with over 229 sovereign tribes. And so, because of those reasons, we did get some additional vaccine in the state via those federal partnerships.
Alaska’s situation should improve quickly. It expanded eligibility four days ago. It now includes all teachers and child care staff. People over 50 with at least one risk factor were added recently, while in many states the age cut-off remains 65.
The confirmed case count in Alaska remains fairly low. It has the fifth-lowest count among all states at 56,410, and coronavirus deaths there total 282. This likely is because of the state’s vastness and population. Alaska’s population density is about one person per square mile. In crowded states like Connecticut and Massachusetts, that figure is above 400. Alaska also ranks third lowest by population at 738,432. However, population is not necessarily a reasonable marker. Rhode Island ranks eighth in population at 1,056,298, but it has among the worst vaccination record across all states.
Alaska’s lead in vaccinations is no fluke. It has held the top spot for over a week and shows no sign of relinquishing it.