As data shows promise of the end of the pandemic being near, the number of people unvaccinated still indicates we have a long way to go.

After a long year of restrictions, lockdowns, and tragedies, there seems to finally be light at the end of the tunnel. America seems to be just on the brink of entering possibly a “post-pandemic” life, as many like to describe it. 

46% of the U.S. population have been fully vaccinated, and 53% of the population have received at least one dose according to data from Our World in Data. Here, in my home state of Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam lifted all Covid restrictions on May 28. Like Virginia, states across the country have already reopened or plan to reopen in the summer. 

The Center for Disease Control has made clear that everyone who is fully vaccinated no longer has to wear a mask. 

For me personally, I refrained from going out often due to my germaphobia. However, since I and my entire family became fully vaccinated, I have gone out numerous times because I feel safer and at ease knowing there is a less likely chance of me or my loved ones getting sick. 

Many Americans also seem to be thinking like this. People are going out more, having more parties, and attending more large gatherings. Americans are beginning to feel as if we are entering a post-pandemic life. However, this isn’t quite true yet. 

By no means am I trying to discredit all the progress the Biden administration has made when it comes to tackling the virus head-on, but there is still work that needs to be done. I am an optimist and a realist at the same time. Yes, America is on a good path, but it is okay to admit there are things that need to happen before we can classify this next era of our lives as “post-pandemic.” 

When it comes to what needs to happen before we consider the pandemic to be “over” it is obvious that simply more people need to get vaccinated. 

When the CDC announced that people who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear their masks in public, Americans went into a bit of confusion and chaos. 

I remember watching the news with my mom where she stated, “How are we supposed to know who’s fully vaccinated and who’s not. People could be lying.” 

Regardless of who you know is vaccinated and who isn’t, it’s still a fact that over half the U.S. population isn’t fully vaccinated yet. 

On June 22, the Biden administration announced that the U.S. will not reach the goal of having 70% of the population partially vaccinated by the fourth of July holiday. 

So far, only 16 states have 70% of their population with at least one dose. However, many states are not meeting this goal. According to a New York Times report, Mississippi currently has the lowest vaccination rate, with only 36% of its population with one dose of the vaccine. Along with Mississippi, states such as Idaho, Wyoming, Louisiana, and Alabama, have less than 40% of their population with one dose. 

There are numerous contributing factors as to why some Americans haven’t been vaccinated yet, such as fear of the vaccine and its short-term and long-term effects, lack of access, lack of trust, lack of people seeing Covid-19 as a real problem, and of course conspiracy theories. I myself was hesitant to get the vaccine at first, but once I got it I felt so much better. 

There is also a particular age group that health officials have been urging to get the vaccine: younger people. According to the CDC, children ages, 12 to 15 are eligible to receive the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. Despite the availability, it still appears that Americans younger than 40, such as Millennials and Gen Z, are not getting vaccinated at the same rate as older Americans. 

My sister Joy, who is 15, just got her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on June 27. “I wanted to get mine so that I could feel safe and do my part. But many people at my high school aren’t getting the vaccine because they don’t trust it,” said Joy. 

63% of Americans 12 and older have received one dose of the vaccine, and 66% of Americans 18 and up have received one dose of the Covid vaccine. These numbers are promising, but health officials still urge younger age groups to get vaccinated. 

The Director of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Lewinsky, encouraged children 12 and older who haven’t been vaccinated to get their shots because of ‘troubling data’ regarding the hospitalizations of adolescents with Covid-19. A ‘concerning’ amount of children are being admitted to the hospital who require treatment in the intensive care unit with mechanical ventilation. “I strongly encourage parents to get their teens vaccinated as I did mine,” said Dr.Walensky. 

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With new variants arising, it is now more important than ever for all age groups, especially younger ones to get vaccinated. 

On June 8, Dr. Fauci first warned of the new Covid variant, Delta, that first originated in India. Fauci encourages young people to get vaccinated as soon as possible because this new variant has been affecting younger age groups more than any previous variant. 

The CDC has now classified the Delta variant as a “variant of concern.” The dangerous variant now makes up for more than 20% of the cases here in the United States.  

On June 29, the WHO announced that they encourage all Americans, vaccinated or unvaccinated, to continue to wear their masks. This comes just weeks after states have lifted restrictions and opened their states. 

Even though health officials have stressed that those who are vaccinated are protected, and those unvaccinated are at a greater risk of getting sick from this variant, everyone should wear a mask because you just don’t know for sure who’s vaccinated and who isn’t. 

But looking at all these facts, we must ask ourselves, how are these variants from other countries getting to America? These variants from other countries are spreading simply because people in other parts of the world are not yet vaccinated, let alone have the same access to vaccine supply as the U.S. 

In order for us to consider ourselves to be in a “post-pandemic” life, globally everyone needs to be on the same track. We must really consider that just because our numbers for vaccination rates are doing well, doesn’t mean this is the same for other countries across the world. As long as there are still coronavirus surges in other countries, the pandemic is not truly over. 

Despite cases and deaths being down by more than 90%, this is not the case for all regions around the world. There has been a surge in Covid cases and deaths in countries in Southeast Asia, and Latin America. 

Latin American countries such as Argentina, Columbia, and Brazil have recently had a surge in cases. According to data from Our World in Data, Columbia had a total of 30,864 cases recorded on June 29, 2021, with only 12% of its population fully vaccinated. Argentina had a total of 21,274 cases on June 29, with only 8% of its population fully vaccinated. Brazil, which has the highest number of cases in Latin America, had a total of 65,521 cases on June 29, with only 12% of its population fully vaccinated. 

India, which is being hit the worst with Covid surges in the world, had a total of 47,734 cases on June 29, with only 4% of its population fully vaccinated. 

In response to other parts of the world being affected by Covid and not having access to vaccines, the President announced the U.S.’s commitment to sharing a total of 80 million doses by the end of June, with 25 million doses that will go out as soon as possible. Biden’s plan is to deliver a total of 200 million doses by the end of the year, and 500 million doses delivered by June of 2022. 

The United States will be sharing at least 75% of these vaccines, which is approximately 19 million through COVAX. Approximately 6 million will go to Latin America and the Caribbean, 7 million for South and Southeast Asia, 5 million with the African Union and Africa CDC. The U.S. is sharing 25% of these vaccines with countries with immediate needs and to help surges around the world. 

Only FDA-approved doses will be going out, including Johnson and Johnson, which requires one dose, and Moderna and Pfizer which require two doses.

“This vaccine strategy is a vital component of our overall global strategy to lead the world in the fight to defeat COVID-19, including emergency public health assistance and aid to stop the spread and building global public health capacity and readiness to beat not just this pandemic, but the next one.” said the Administration in a statement June 3.  

National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan stated, “Across the coming weeks, the administration will move as expeditiously as possible, and work through regulatory requirements and logistical details to ensure the safe and secure delivery of doses.”

The Administration wants to ensure vaccines are delivered to populations across different regions that are the most at risk, as well as nations experiencing surges, high burdens of disease, or low vaccination rates.  

During Biden’s recent trip abroad, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that all G7 countries pledged to donate one billion Covid-19 vaccine doses globally by the end of 2022 to help combat the virus. 

On June 28, Press Secretary Psaki announced the Biden administration will begin to ship 2 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Peru, and 2.5 million of the Moderna vaccine to Pakistan. 

So it appears that help and hope are in the near future. 

As much as we want to tell ourselves that the pandemic is almost over, it in fact is not. Some days I myself like to think that we are approaching a post-pandemic life. Thinking that makes me feel better about my future and getting back to my normal college life as a young adult.  But the truth is that’s just not reality. Weeks ago, America hit a gruesome record of over 600,000 Covid-19 deaths. People are still tragically dying and people are still getting sick.  

There’s no doubt that we slowly but surely are combatting the virus and getting back to a sense of normalcy in some aspects of life. But we won’t be 100% back to normal until everyone, everywhere, of all ages, and of all demographics, are vaccinated. 

Jaala Brown

Jaala Brown is Gen Z Voice at The Pavlovic Today.