Half of all people in the United States are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to data released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The milestone comes amid a surge in cases caused by the delta variant. Cases have risen 142 percent in the last two weeks, according to an NBC News tally; data from the Department of Health and Human Services shows that hospitalizations are also on the rise.
Health officials have said that the delta variant, which accounted for more than 80 percent of new cases in early July, is far more contagious than the original strain. While data shows that infections and illness among vaccinated people are rare, the variant’s spread caused the CDC to revise its mask guidance July 27, recommending that vaccinated people wear masks in areas with high Covid transmission.
The case surge, most acute in states with low vaccination rates, prompted President Joe Biden to make a renewed push for vaccinations, including new requirements for federal workers to either get the shots or wear masks.
Vaccination rates are still low in Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana, where less than 40 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. So far, northeastern states such as Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine are leading the country, with more than 60 percent of their populations fully vaccinated.
There are signs that the delta variant is prompting the unvaccinated to get shots as Covid cases trend up in states like Missouri.
The country’s Covid vaccination efforts launched in December under the Trump administration, after the emergency authorization of a vaccine by the U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech. That effort was accelerated with the addition of the Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Vaccinations were initially kept to elderly or at-risk individuals, as well as health care and essential workers. As additional vaccines became available and the supply increased, eligibility was opened up to every adult in April.
Mid-April marked the peak of the country’s vaccination efforts, which steadily declined until vaccinations were opened up to individuals 12 years and older in May.