After weeks of uninterrupted progress, the growth in the number of vaccines administered in the U.S. has stalled, a worrying trend that coincides with the government’s much-debated decision to shelve the Johnson & Johnson vaccine over the possibility of rare side effects.
The U.S. is now administering about 3.02 million shots per day on average, which the Washington Post notes is an 11 percent drop from one week ago.
It is unclear whether the J&J pause — which was announced on April 13 — and the drop in demand are clearly connected. What is unmistakable is that in many counties and states around the country, there is a large surplus of supply and not enough demand — even though, as of this week, every American over 16 is now eligible for the shots. The gap is most evident in areas with large populations of those most likely to decline the vaccine, foremost among them white rural residents. Of course, eligibility isn’t the same as access, which remains a struggle for countless people and may be partially contributing to their so-called hesitancy.
More than half of all American adults have received at least one vaccine dose, and on Wednesday, President Biden acknowledged the milestone of 200 million doses administered overall. But most scientists estimate that to achieve herd immunity, a significantly higher proportion will need to be vaccinated.
Health officials had been preparing for the moment when the country would run out of adults eager to receive the vaccine — a Kaiser Family Foundation report released this week estimated that the moment would arrive in early May. In response to that inevitability, the Biden administration is attempting to win over millions of vaccine holdouts through a variety of methods, including enlisting local leaders to reach those who are particularly mistrustful of government.