By David M. Greenwald
I watched in horror this weekend accounts of what is happening in India right now. The number of reported cases are hitting new worldwide highs—more than 300,000 new cases a day which, given the state of their medical infrastructure, is undoubtedly a serious undercount. So too is their listed death toll which, after viewing the open burning crematoria reminiscent of the world’s great atrocities, offers a sobering image for anyone paying attention.
But I don’t get the sense that people really are paying attention. I get it, burned out on our own pandemic, we are less than concerned about what happens half a world away.
The Washington Post reported over the weekend that Sunday’s official count was 349,691 but said, “Experts caution that the figures are undercounts in the nation of more than 1.3 billion.”
Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, said Sunday that “we really need to do more.
“I don’t think we can walk away from that,” Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told George Stephanopolous on ABC’s “This Week” before the National Security Council announcement.
“Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, the United States is determined to help India in its time of need,” President Biden tweeted Sunday.
This is not just a humanitarian gesture—this is a survival gesture.
Remember how quickly COVID spread from China to the US last year. Once here, it proved impossible to contain.
We know a lot more about COVID now. We have the vaccine. But that medical knowledge awakens us to the dangers and the risks. If the disease is out of control in India, it is also mutating. It could get more deadly as some of the strains entering the US are now. It could mutate to a point where the vaccines are ineffective against it.
That’s why we should put considerable resources into other areas of the world to get this pandemic under control before it comes back around to bite us through the back door.
Officials overall are a little concerned about our own resistance to getting vaccinated. They note that the daily average has fallen from 3.2 million a day at the beginning of April to 2.8 million a day this past week. Still, that’s not bad.
At this point 28.6 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated with a total of 42.2 percent of the people getting at least one dose. They are a bit concerned at the percentage of people who have failed to get their second shot after getting their first one.
Dr. Fauci still believes that the rate of new infections—around 57,000 per day over the last seven days—is way down over 200,000 in January, but is “still too high.
“That’s a precarious level, and we don’t want that to go up,” he said on ABC this Sunday.
Researchers are concerned because about one in four Americans say they would refuse a vaccine, with another five percent that are undecided.
NPR points out, “Although the numbers were highest for Republican men and residents of rural areas, there were still a significant number of people across all ages and demographic groups who claim they will say ‘no.’”
NPR notes: “Now some researchers are increasingly worried that this reticence will be enough to prevent the nation from reaching what’s known as herd immunity, the point at which the coronavirus can no longer spread easily through the population and transmission peters out. Reaching high levels of vaccination would mean new outbreaks of the coronavirus would die down quickly, as opposed to growing and spreading.”
“Vaccine hesitancy is a big problem for all of us,” says Ali Mokdad, who tracks coronavirus trends at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
I do worry about vaccine hesitancy, but something to keep in mind is, if you do get to about 75 percent vaccinated, you figure another swath of the population has probably contracted it and if the largest number of unvaccinated are in rural areas, the risk of continued spread may not be as great as some fear.
Still, experts warn that we need to get to 80 to 85 percent vaccinated and, based on current polling data, “the tipping point for herd immunity for the virus remains out of reach.”
Ironically the very people refusing to get vaccinated are the same ones that want things open now, and by refusing to get vaccinated they may forestall a full return to normal.
Still, I think the greater danger is not in vaccine hesitancy but in the pandemic spinning out of control outside the border and coming back to the US as a new outbreak we are unable to control.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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