Why is the pandemic ongoing if everyone is getting vaccinated?

1 in 3 people in the US are still unvaccinated.

Yes, people are getting vaccinated, but not enough people are vaccinated yet to slow transmission and prevent deaths from COVID-19.  While the national average is 66% fully vaccinated among the eligible population (12 years and older as of 10/25/21), this is only 60% of the total population. Additionally, there are parts of the country where the vaccination rate is much lower. In fact, the US has one of the least vaccinated populations among wealthy countries. 

Protective behaviors are on the decline. 

Despite the low vaccination rate, many people have stopped wearing masks and practicing physical distancing, including unvaccinated people. This means many unvaccinated people who may not have had much personal risk early in the pandemic now have increased risk due to increased close contacts. On top of all of this, the delta variant is now the predominant variant in the US. The delta variant is more contagious, so as people stop protective behaviors, more people are at risk of infection and breakthrough cases are more likely. 

In sum, low vaccination rates and the early return of “risky” behaviors have contributed to the ongoing spread of COVID-19 cases, despite vaccination.

Last update: October 25, 2021, 09:00 pm ET

Science review: ERS, SB, JAB