WASHINGTON — A disproportionate number of Arkansans are sick with covid-19 because a disproportionate number of Arkansans have declined to get vaccinated, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday.
“These types of things are entirely predictable,” said Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser and the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Fauci took questions from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, some of which were submitted to the newspaper by readers, Thursday morning via video conference.
Only 35% of Arkansans are fully vaccinated; nationally, the rate is 48%.
Over the past week, Arkansas has had the highest per capita number of covid-19 infections, per 100,000 residents, of any state in the nation.
On Wednesday, the state added 1,309 new virus cases, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.
Fauci urged eligible Arkansans who remain unvaccinated to get inoculated against the coronavirus.
“You should feel that you have a high degree of protection if you are fully vaccinated. It would be, obviously, much better if the entire state of Arkansas had a high percentage of vaccines. But vaccinated people should feel, appropriately, that they are highly protected against getting infected and, certainly, against getting severe, advanced disease,” he said.
Fauci anticipates vaccines being made available for children of all ages. Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cleared the way for anyone 12 years and older to be vaccinated.
Some of those declining to be vaccinated emphasize that the inoculations have only received emergency-use authorization from the FDA; that categorization is temporary, Fauci noted.
“The FDA has to dot all the ‘I’s and cross all the ‘T’s in the process of full approval,” he said. “The volume of positive data showing the effectiveness in the real world setting of the vaccines, together with their safety, make it a situation that it is inevitable that these will be approved, fully, by the FDA. And it’s really a matter of a technicality.”
“So we should consider the EUAs as good as full approval because of the volume of very positive data that we have an on these vaccines,” he said.