RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Neither North Carolina nor the rest of the United States will meet President Biden’s goal of having 70 percent of adults at least partially vaccinated by the Fourth of July.
And while the White House COVID-19 response team and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention appear to point the finger at the youngest adults, one prominent local expert says there’s more to it than just the 18-to-24 age group.
“There are many different issues with vaccine hesitancy,” said Dr. David Weber, a professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. “And younger individuals are just one of them.”
That North Carolina will miss Biden’s target isn’t a surprise. Previous CBS17.com data analyses found the state — which ranks 38th nationally in terms of its share of partially vaccinated adults — more likely wouldn’t reach that level of vaccine uptake until Thanksgiving.
Weber said the July 4 goal was “realistic.”
“You want a goal that pushes you a little bit but is realistic and this was a realistic goal,” Weber said. “It was a good idea to set it. And now we have to work harder and look at the various ways, public health, individual health care providers, the media can help to achieve that goal, and then, ultimately, an even higher goal.”
A big part of the struggle, federal officials said, has been the struggle to get through to young adults.
The White House is revising some of its targets, saying 70 percent of adults who are 30 or older have had at least one shot and saying by July 4 that 70 percent of those 27 and older will be partially vaccinated.
The implication is clear — those getting shots need to skew younger.
A CDC study this week finds those between 18 and 24 years old were among those with the lowest reported vaccination coverage as well as the lowest intent to get vaccinated. And barely over a third of those between 18 and 39 have gotten a shot.
Locally, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services groups those ages differently. But the trend is exactly the same, with only 35 percent of people between 18 and 24 getting at least one dose.
So it’s no surprise that as their vaccine numbers lag, their case numbers are up — especially as the virus continues to circulate among those pockets of unvaccinated people.
People between 18 and 24 continue to account for 1 in 7 new cases of COVID-19.
And those between 18 and 29 have made up 11 percent of COVID-related hospital admissions since June 1 — more than double their rate of 4.5 percent of admissions since DHHS began making those figures available in October 2020.
But one question persists: Are we running out of ways to persuade the youngest adults to get those shots?
Weber says arguments specifically tailored to their apprehensions are often the most persuasive.
“If they’re vaccine-hesitant because they’re just watchful, want to wait and see, we can provide those people with evidence the vaccine is both safe, highly effective,” he said. “To those people that are system-distrusters, don’t just trust people, we can use their own community leaders — and here it has to be their own community leaders — as our spokesperson to recommend the vaccine and deal with vaccine myths.”