WASHINGTON - Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, is warning COVID-19 cases could rise in parts of the country later this year if vaccinations don’t increase.
"If there’s a persistence of a recalcitrant group that doesn’t get vaccinated, there will be local type of regional spikes and outbreaks," Fauci said to reporters Tuesday.
However, Fauci said he doesn’t think the country will see the same surges Americans have witnessed and experienced over the past year.
"I don’t think even under those circumstances that you’re going to see things like a thousand deaths a day," he added. "But there is a real danger that if there is a persistence of recalcitrance to getting vaccinated that you could see localized surges, which is the reason I want to emphasize what all four of us have said - all of that is totally and completely avoidable by getting vaccinated."
More than 150 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, representing 45.2% of the country’s total population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, what concerns Fauci is the slowed pace of the vaccination rate.
CDC data shows the country is averaging fewer than 1 million shots per day. That’s far below April’s peak when the country was averaging more than 3 million shots a day.
The country’s southern region has some of the lowest vaccination rates. According to the Mayo Clinic, only 29% of people in Mississippi are fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden continues to push more Americans to get vaccinated.
The White House acknowledged Tuesday that Biden will fall short of reaching his goal of vaccinating 70% of all American adults with at least one shot by Independence Day. But it said he reached that threshold for those aged 30 and older and expects to meet it for those age 27 or older by the July 4 holiday.
The White House effort to increase vaccinations includes an early summer sprint of incentives and a slew of new steps to ease barriers and make the vaccines more appealing to those who have not received them. Dangling everything from sports tickets to a free beer, Biden is looking for that extra something — anything — that will get people to roll up their sleeves for COVID-19 shots when the promise of a life-saving vaccine by itself hasn’t been enough.
Health officials are also concerned that the more deadly and more dangerous delta COVID-19 variant could also continue to rise among unvaccinated Americans.
"It is the most contagious variant we have ever seen in this pandemic and that’s going to be a huge problem," Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, said. "Second, it does look like it’s a bit more deadly than other variants. And there is some evidence that it has more ‘immune escape’ as well. So, it may be one of the first sort of true triple threats."
Health officials said the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines are proving effective against the delta variant.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.