Visits to the federal government’s vaccine website spiked after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eased mask guidelines for Americans who got their COVID-19 shot.
Two weeks ago, CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky said those who are fully vaccinated against the virus could remove face coverings outdoors and in most indoor settings.
Data obtained exclusively by CNN reveal that traffic to vaccines.gov – a site where people can find vaccination sites near their ZIP code – increased by more than 20 percent that week compared to the previous week.
Experts say the new recommendations gave an incentive for vaccine-hesitant people to get their shot so they could also take off their masks in public after more than a year.
On May 13, the CDC and President Joe Biden announced that Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 could take off their masks outdoors and in most indoor settings
Vaccine.gov saw the second-highest number of visitors that day and traffic ncreased by 22% that week compared to the week before the new guidance was announced
‘This shows incentives matter,’ Dr Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University School of Medicine, told CNN.
‘People needed a carrot, and the carrot was the ability to drop the mask in most settings.’
On most days, visits to the website typically increased throughout the morning (ET) and then declined by around noon.
However, on Thursday, May 13, that changed when Walensky announced the updated guidance during an afternoon press briefing.
‘Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,’ she said.
‘If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.’
Experts say the recommendations gave an incentive for vaccine-hesitant people to get their coronavirus shot. Pictured: People without masks walk in New York’s Times Square, May 19
Then, around 4pm, President Joe Biden held a press conference and wrote a tweet mentioning the new rules.
‘The rule is now simple: get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do. The choice is yours,’ he tweeted.
After Biden’s tweet, vaccines.gov saw 40,000 visitors, which – according to CNN – is the second-highest figure ever since the website’s launch on April 30.
‘It’s amazing – really amazing,’ John Brownstein, and infectious disease epidemiologist and co-founder of VaccineFinder, which powers vaccines.gov, told CNN.
‘I didn’t think we would see such a well-defined spike in interest.’
Although May 13 was the busiest day, traffic to the site overall increase with 1,972,434 visitors that week, a 22 percent jump from the 1,604,686 visits the week before the new guidance was announced.
The new recommendations were met with joy by some and concern by others, who feared the rules would lead to a spread of COVID-19 as unvaccinated people pretended they had gotten shots and took off their masks.
However, since May 13, the seven-day rolling average of new cases has fallen by 33 percent from 35,255 to 23,510, according to a DailyMail.com analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.
What’s more, the seven-day rolling average for deaths has fallen by almost seven percent from 631 to 588, the analysis found.
Brownstein told CNN that it’s clear to him the announcements from Walensky and Biden led to increased interest in vaccination.
‘A spike in usage on vaccines.gov right at that moment tells us that relaxing certain restrictions informed some people’s decision to get the vaccine,’ he said.