As the fourth of July draws closer, and the United States begins to relax some of its cautionary mandates, including moving away from mandatory quarantines and required mask wearing—sometimes both indoors and outdoors—it is important to remember that while the easing of these restrictions is something to celebrate, it does not signal the end of the pandemic here in the United States, much less around the globe. Rather, it is only the beginning, a tentative first-step towards a hopeful return to normalcy in the future brought about, in the main, by a vigorous, public health vaccination program here and in many of the wealthier nations across the globe.
For one thing, variants of the virus continue to proliferate, a constant reminder that the immunizations that are currently in play may not be as effective in the future. For example, the United Kingdom was prepared to announce the “end” of the pandemic, its own “freedom day,” on or about June 21, 2021, when the rapid spread of the new, “delta variant,” caused it to re-think its pronouncement and postpone its tentative “re-opening” for at least another month.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had hoped to lift most social restrictions, meaning pubs, restaurants, nightclubs and other hospitality venues could fully reopen. Mark Woolhouse at the University of Edinburgh said the new delay “would be justified” because “[t]he arrival of the delta variant has changed the assessment of the risks of re-opening: it is more transmissible, causes more severe disease and the vaccines are less effective against it.” Even with the rapid rollout of covid-19 vaccines, the U.K. will still face a third-wave of infections, mainly among younger people who haven’t yet been vaccinated.
And if Britain, which has one of the world’s most advanced vaccination programs needs more time to vaccinate millions of more people in order to save thousands of lives, what of the rest of the world? The less-wealthy nations?
The worldwide covid-19 death toll has just passed 3.8 million. Johns Hopkins University reports more than 176 million confirmed cases, while the true number of cases will undoubtedly be much higher. According to data assembled by Bloomberg, 2.39 billion doses have been administered across 178 countries—enough to vaccinate only15.6% of the world’s population. And countries and regions with the highest incomes are getting vaccinated more than 30 times faster than those with the lowest.
Covid rates have generally flattened or declined where vaccination rates are highest. Even in the United States it is projected that it will take another five months to reach herd immunity levels. At the current pace of 36.3 million vaccinations a day, it will take another year to achieve a high level [70-75%] of global immunity.
As the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker puts it: “[s]ince the start of the global vaccination campaign, countries have experienced unequal access to vaccines and varying degrees of efficiency in getting shots into people’s arms. Before March, few African nations had received a single shipment of shots. In the U.S., 93.6 doses have been administered for every 100 people.”
We invite our readers to share your thoughts and feelings in keeping with positive movements forward toward our new normal.