Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Healthcare workers prepare to vaccinate Mississippi residents

Medical workers with Delta Health Center prepare to vaccinate people at a pop-up Covid-19 vaccination clinic in a rural community on April 29, 2021 in Leland, Mississippi. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

As Delta Runs Rampant, Analysis Pinpoints Five Undervaccinated Clusters Putting Entire US at Risk

"These clusters of unvaccinated people are what is standing in the way of us putting this virus down permanently."

Jake Johnson

A new data analysis by researchers at Georgetown University pinpoints a number of undervaccinated clusters of the United States that pose a significant threat to the nation's—and potentially the world's—gradual progress against the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly given their potential to serve as "factories" for extremely contagious variants such as the now-dominant Delta strain.

The five most significant clusters identified by the Georgetown researchers are largely located in the southern U.S., in states such as Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana—all of which are currently experiencing a rise in coronavirus cases as Delta rips through communities concentrated with people who have yet to receive a single vaccine shot. Those clusters include more than 15 million people.

"The group of counties in each cluster... together have lower vaccination coverage than expected, and make up a large population size. All of the top five clusters are focused in the southeastern U.S.," the researchers note.

"The more geographically clustered unvaccinated individuals are," the analysis continues, "the higher the chance that an unvaccinated individual will interact with another unvaccinated individual, and the higher the chance that a disease transmission event will occur. Low vaccination clusters, therefore, are locations where risk of transmission of Covid-19 remains high (in the absence of social distancing and masking)."

Because "variant emergence stems from disease transmission," the report notes that every new transmission of the disease "creates an opportunity for a new variant to transmit to another host and take hold in a population.

Therefore, the researchers write, "curbing transmission events is our best recourse to prevent variant emergence."

Clusters of undervaccinated people in U.S.

Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a CNN medical analyst and professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, said Thursday that "these clusters of unvaccinated people are what is standing in the way of us putting this virus down permanently."

"We've been lucky with the variants so far that they've been relatively susceptible to our vaccine," Reiner added, "but the more you roll the dice, the more opportunities there will be for a resistant variant."

The Georgetown analysis came as the Biden administration announced a new initiative aimed at intensifying the U.S. vaccination drive as inoculation rates continue to slow across the country. According to the New York Times, "Providers are administering about 0.73 million doses per day on average, about a 78 percent decrease from the peak of 3.38 million reported on April 13."

In a speech earlier this week, President Joe Biden said the effort will emphasize tackling hesitancy and increasing access by "getting the vaccines to more and more family doctors and healthcare providers so more Americans can get this shot at their doctor's office from the folks that they know and they trust the most."

"Our fight against this virus is not over," the president said. "Right now, as I speak to you, millions of Americans are still unvaccinated and unprotected. And because of that, their communities are at risk. Their friends are at risk. The people they care about are at risk. This is an even bigger concern because of the Delta variant."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Delta strain—which is estimated to be 60% more transmissible than the previously dominant Alpha mutation—accounted for more than half of all new coronavirus infections in the U.S. between June 20 and July 3 as it sweeps across the country and the globe.

But Politico reported Thursday that Biden administration officials believe the Delta mutation is "significantly more widespread" in the U.S. "than the current federal projections."

"It is everywhere now," one unnamed official told Politico. "The risk really is in the unvaccinated community. We're starting to see more and more people get sick and need medical attention."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'When You Don't Change People's Lives, People Get Upset,' Says AOC

To reverse slump in Democratic approval ratings, the congresswoman said Biden should start by cancelling student loan debt.

Julia Conley ·


Sioux Tribe Withdraws as Cooperating Agency Over Dakota Access Pipeline Threat

"The prospect of an oil spill during such low water is truly scary," says the tribe's Water Resources Department administrator.

Jessica Corbett ·


New Report Shows How US Transportation System 'Fuels Inequality'

Favoring cars over public transit has "consequences for racial and economic justice, the environment, and more," the Institute for Policy Studies warns.

Brett Wilkins ·


Gas Stoves Even Worse for Climate, Health Than Previously Thought

New study shows methane leaks from U.S. gas-burning stoves have a climate impact comparable to emissions from about 500,000 cars.

Jessica Corbett ·


Exiting Breyer Quotes Lincoln: 'We Are Now Engaged in a Great Civil War'

The Supreme Court justice appeared to be "pointedly talking about threats facing the country," said one observer.

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo