Despite there being three covid-19 vaccines currently approved for use in the United States—Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s since December and Johnson & Johnson since February—outbreaks continue to crop up throughout the country.
In Arkansas, for example, daily new cases are on the rise. Over a thousand people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the state every day since Wednesday, The Hill reports. The outlet attributes this trend to two factors: the relatively more contagious delta variant of the virus, which NPR says is now the dominant strain in the U.S., as well as to the fact that only about one-third (34.8%) of Arkansas residents are fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times. (For comparison, 76.5% of Vermont residents are fully vaccinated, while 47.8% of all Americans have received all their doses.)
The state’s governor, Asa Hutchinson, has urged his constituents to get vaccinated, noting that “the overwhelming majority of covid patients in the hospital have not been vaccinated,” per The Hill. But what is he doing to make those vaccines accessible? It is tempting to blame low vaccination rates entirely on individual failure, but if people are not given state-funded childcare or time off from work to make these appointments happen, how can they be expected to make them?
As always, it all comes down to accessibility—or rather, inaccessibility. And if vaccine inaccessibility is causing covid outbreaks in the U.S., a wealthy nation that spent the last year hoarding vaccines, such public health crises will only continue globally for the foreseeable future, as people living in the poorest countries aren’t expected to be vaccinated until 2023.