Mid-South vaccination rates low, Delta variant continues to spread


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There are new concerns from health officials as the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the Mid-South.

Many are worried hospitalizations could rise all because vaccination rates remain low in the Mid-South, and the variant could possibly target children.

As vaccine hesitancy remains high in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi with some of the lowest vaccination rates near or at the bottom in the country, the Delta variant is showing no signs of slowing its spread.

While using charts, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson says the Delta variant is growing rapidly in the Natural state.

“You can see the growth of the delta variant as compared to all the other variants in Arkansas and, of course, the delta variant is more transmissible,” said Hutchinson.

The CDC says the Delta variant accounts for more than one-in-four new cases in the United States and doubles the risk of hospitalizations than the Alpha variant.     

Arkansas Department of Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero says it’s reaching children.

“The Delta variant is penetrating into our childhood population. We cannot vaccinate our children at this point because we don’t have a vaccine for them,” said Romero.

Dr. Sandy Arnold is the chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis and she says she is concerned about the Delta variant impacting children.

“So, we are hardly seeing any COVID cases at Le Bonheur,” Arnold said. “What I can say is that we are seeing an increasing number of cases due to the Delta variant. It’s still a relatively small number overall. but we also have a relatively small number of cases every day in Memphis and Shelby County.”

Dr. Jeff Warren is a family physician, city councilman and member of the COVID-19 Task Force. He says his best advice is for kids over 12 who can the vaccine and adults to get their shots.

“My concern is the people who haven’t been vaccinated are going to be ill and are going to take that home to family who haven’t been vaccinated particularly to our youngest kids who currently don’t have an option to the vaccine,” said Warren.

Health experts say fewer people are wearing masks and social distancing which was especially the case during the recent July 4th holiday weekend.

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