Millions more Americans can now get COVID-19 vaccines; some reluctant

THORNTON, CO - MARCH 06: Adams 12 Five Star Schools District RN Tiffany Karschamroon draws a dose from a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, the newest vaccine approved by the U.S. FDA for emergency use, at an event put on by the Thornton Fire Department on March 6, 2021 in Thornton, Colorado. Colorado entered COVID-19 vaccination Phase 1B.3 on Friday, allowing essential grocery and agriculture workers, people over the age of 60 and people with two or more high-risk conditions to receive a vaccine. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

(CNN) — There’s lots of great news about COVID-19 vaccines and one major catch.

First, the good news:

Now here’s the problem: Some Americans are still reluctant to get vaccinated, even though that’s the easiest ticket to herd immunity and a return to normal life.

About 70% to 85% of people must achieve immunity — either by surviving COVID-19 or receiving a vaccine — for the population to reach herd immunity. That’s the point at which enough people are protected against a disease that it cannot spread through the population.

But while 92% of Democrats either have gotten vaccinated or want to get vaccinated, that number plummets to 50% among Republicans, a CNN poll conducted by SSRS shows.

“What we need to do is find a way to de-link anti-science (beliefs) from the Republican Party,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

For the US to quash this pandemic as quickly as possible, more Americans need to roll up their sleeves — especially as more contagious variants and travel increase, health experts say.

“On the one hand, we are getting vaccines out at a record pace, but on the other hand, we have these variants,” emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen said.

“We also know surges have occurred after spring break and after holidays before. So what happens now is really up to us.”

Despite warnings, air travel reaches record highs

More people traveled by air in the past four days than any other four-day period in this pandemic, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

At least 5.2 million people have flown since Thursday, the TSA said Monday.

And health experts say spring break can be a perfect storm for spreading variants.

The B.1.1.7 strain is spreading rampantly in Florida, Hotez said, and research shows that strain is 59% to 74% more transmissible than the original novel coronavirus.

Yet revelers have packed Florida hot spots, and they could unknowingly bring back the virus to their home states.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said “too much spring break activity” happened over the weekend.

“We’ve got a problem with too many people coming here,” the mayor said. “We’ve got a problem with too many people coming here to let loose.”

Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements told CNN on Monday spring breakers tend to “congregate closer to one another.” Once that happens, social distancing goes out the window, Clements said. This, in turn, exposes officers to COVID-19.

“We passed out almost 7,000 masks this weekend alone trying to get people to recognize the threat of the virus and the potential spread of the virus if they don’t take those precautions,” Clements said. “We obviously don’t want to see anymore in our ranks contract the virus.”

And just because spring breakers are outside on a beach doesn’t meant they’ll be safe.

“They’re not going to be (outdoors) all day and all night,” Hotez said. “They’re going to be in bars and everything else.”

Health experts are begging all Americans to wear masks and avoid mistakes from the past that led to devastating surges.

“We have seen footage of people enjoying spring break festivities, maskless. This is all in the context of still 50,000 cases per day,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I’m pleading with you for, the sake of our nation’s health. These should be warning signs for all of us. Cases climbed last spring, they climbed again in the summer, they will climb now if we stop taking precautions when we get more and more people vaccinated.”