FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — A distinct geographic pattern has emerged in the U.S. drive to vanquish the coronavirus – the highest vaccination rates are concentrated in the Northeast, while the lowest are mostly in the South.
Experts say the gap reflects a multitude of factors, including political leanings, religious beliefs, and education and income levels. Close to 160 million Americans — 48% of the population — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 125 million are fully vaccinated against the virus.
Vermont is No. 1, with nearly 64% of its population receiving at least one dose. Mississippi is last at 32%.
Following Vermont at 54% or higher are Massachusetts, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New Mexico.
Eight Southern states are in the bottom 10, all under 40%. Mississippi was followed by Louisiana, Alabama, Wyoming, Idaho, Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, West Virginia and South Carolina.
“Low vaccination rates will leave room for the virus to circulate, re-emerge and possibly form new variants,” said Tara Kirk Sell, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “High vaccination rates are critical to keeping the disease under control, especially when we get back to the fall and winter.”
Closing the state gaps is vital to controlling the virus that has killed 588,000 Americans, health experts say.