• Experts say states with low vaccination rates could become COVID-19 hot spots
  • Eight states are yet to meet the national average of 43% fully vaccinated
  • Poll: Nearly 30% of Republican adults "do not plan on getting vaccinated"

Experts warn against a possible surge of new COVID-19 cases in the fall, noting that a “more virulent” variant could hit U.S. states with low vaccine rates.

The warning comes even as the seven-day average number of cases in the country dropped from 21,000 on May 29 to 14,315 on Saturday, data from Johns Hopkins University showed.

Experts have attributed the decrease in COVID-19 case numbers to vaccination efforts and natural immunity in some states where many have been exposed to the virus. In Mississippi, only 28% of the population has been vaccinated, while 60% of the population has been exposed. More than 7,300 people in the state have died from COVID-19.

“We certainly are getting some population benefit from our previous cases, but we paid for it,” Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs told the Associated Press. “We paid for it with deaths.”

While most states have recorded declining numbers, eight states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Missouri, Nevada, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming -- have seen their seven-day infection rate averages increase in recent weeks.

These states have reported vaccination rates below the national average of 43% fully vaccinated, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In comparison, 10 states with the fewest COVID-19 cases per capita have exceeded the U.S. average of fully vaccinated people.

Many health experts have voiced concerns over the low vaccination rates in some states, warning that they could experience another surge of cases caused by more contagious COVID-19 variants.

“Just because we’re lucky in June doesn’t mean we’ll continue to be lucky come the late fall and winter,” said Dr. Leana Wen, the former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore and a public health professor at George Washington University.

“We could well have variants here that are more transmissible, more virulent, and those who do not have immunity or have waning immunity could be susceptible once again,” Wen added.

A poll released Sunday by CBS News showed that 29% of Republican adults do not plan to get vaccinated against COVID-19, compared to 5% of Democrats and 21% of Independents.

Among those who said they won’t get vaccinated, 50% mentioned that vaccines still require more testing, 43% were worried about the potential side effects and 40% said they don’t trust the government.

COVID-19 has so far claimed nearly 600,000 lives in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

Steven R. Brandenburg, 46, removed Moderna vaccine vials from their refrigerator unit on purpose, according to court documents
Steven R. Brandenburg, 46, removed Moderna vaccine vials from their refrigerator unit on purpose, according to court documents AFP / Apu GOMES