RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Even if it keeps up its recently increased pace of vaccinations, it might be Halloween before 70 percent of North Carolina adults get at least one shot, a CBS17.com data analysis found.
President Joe Biden says the nation as a whole reached that milestone this week, roughly a month later than the original target date of the Fourth of July.
North Carolina is one of 30 states that has yet to reach that benchmark, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 61 percent of those 18 and older having received a shot.
About 5.1 million of the state’s 8.1 million adults are at least partially vaccinated, leaving roughly 3 million — or, almost an entire third of the state’s population — who are eligible for the vaccine but have yet to receive even one dose.
Seventy percent of that total equals roughly 5.7 million people, meaning the state needs about 621,000 more people to get their first shot to reach that milestone.
To put it in perspective, that approximately works out to the combined populations of Raleigh (483,579) and Cary (174,762).
In each of the past two weeks, the state Department of Health and Human Services reported about 48,000 first doses going to adults — up from about 30,000 first doses in each of the two preceding weeks.
Even at that increased pace, it will still take another 13 weeks — or, until roughly the end of October — to get there. Previous analyses placed that milestone arriving closer to Thanksgiving.
And reaching that percentage might be more ceremonial than anything — because the Delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading so fast, it might be better to push that percentage well past 70 percent.
Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, called the round number “somewhat arbitrary.
“And remember that a lot of these goals were made before Delta,” Wohl said. “And the Delta variant is a game changer.”
Wohl says he has a better target in mind.
“The goal is we should just get all of us vaccinated,” he said. “And it really just doesn’t make any sense. There’s really not great reasons anymore for not getting vaccinated.”
But judging from the past six months, accomplishing that won’t be easy.
CDC data show North Carolina ranks 34th nationally when it comes to adults getting at least one dose.
And that’s progress — in late June, that ranking was 38th.
Wohl says it’s “hard to take credit for any of this.”
“I think people are waking up. I think people are really deciding for themselves, finally, that this is a good idea,” he said.
The increase could be driven in part by fears about the Delta variant, which has caused the state’s COVID hospitalization counts to double in fewer than two weeks and to nearly quadruple during the past month.
The state Department of Health and Human Resources reported roughly 60,000 first doses given in each of the past two weeks — up from about 40,000 first doses in each of the two preceding weeks.
“This is canary in the coal mine for everybody else to take a timeout, go ahead and get that vaccine,” said Dr. Lisa Pickett, a trauma surgeon at Duke Health.
Wohl expects the Delta-driven surge to continue through October, saying getting the shots now will keep you safer then.
“The sooner you get the shot, the sooner you’re protected,” he said. “And let’s be clear, Delta is going to be around for a long time.”
CBS 17’s Joedy McCreary has been tracking COVID-19 figures since March 2020, compiling data from federal, state, and local sources to deliver a clear snapshot of what the coronavirus situation looks like now and what it could look like in the future.