The Pandemic May Have Improved, But It Is Not Over (Analysis)

Pfizer: Why is the third dose important? 2:20

(WAB NEWS) – Four days after President Joe Biden declared that the darkest days of the pandemic were over, the United States faces a number of challenges that indicate it is far from free from COVID-19.

Time and again, while with physical estrangement, families have been forced to stay apart and economic turmoil has hit morale, the nation has shown that it is ready for the nightmare to end. But the virus does not work on human or political itineraries. Now there are warning signs that worrying days are ahead, threatening to escalate the political tensions of a period that has torn apart bitter ideological divisions.

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It all adds up to a serious problem for the White House, which has touted its competence in managing the deployment of the vaccine and handling the covid crisis it inherited.

On Thursday, Pfizer reported that the protection of its vaccine appeared to be waning over time and that it was developing a booster that should be taken six to 12 months after recipients received their second dose, to restore full effectiveness. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) followed up on that announcement with a own, in an effort to reassure Americans that they do not yet need booster shots and that those agencies will make the decision about when or if those doses are needed.

The good news is that the vaccine still has an extraordinarily high rate of preventing serious illness and death. Thus, the miracle of covid-19 vaccines remains intact, as boosters were long expected to be needed. But the latest development suggests that it will be imperative to extend a huge government vaccination effort in the future.

That will further complicate the task facing the White House at a time when millions of skeptical Americans are resisting a first round of vaccines despite a successful vaccine rollout.

“It’s hard to imagine that we can immunize 200 to 300 million people each year against this,” Dr. Zeke Emanuel, former health policy adviser to President Barack Obama, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“That would be a big challenge. We are already having a hard time immunizing people in the States only during the first round; imagine having to do it every year.”

There is growing data showing vaccine hesitancy to be found disproportionately in states that voted Republican in the last election, underscoring how difficult it is for the Democratic White House to increase vaccination rates. Meanwhile, a bevy of hot spots in the southern and southwestern U.S. threaten not only to increase cases among unprotected people, but also to act as a breeding ground for new variants that could compromise the effectiveness of existing vaccines. .

Cases on the rise in nearly half of the states

In another sign of the lasting threat of the pandemic, the rapid spread of the delta variant of the new coronavirus has reversed a widespread decline in cases, with 24 states now experiencing upward trends. The variant’s more transmissible properties mean that it is even more dangerous to the unvaccinated than previous incarnations of the virus.

Given the increase in cases in the boreal summer, experts worry that the colder fall and winter months could see a further increase in cases, deaths and the burden of already exhausted hospital staff. While a new national crisis remains unlikely, severe regional outbreaks could rekindle the need for lockdowns, use of masks and physical distancing, and bring all the political tensions that come with such measures.

“By late summer, early fall [en el hemisferio norte], some of those places with far below average vaccination rates will be in full increase mode, “Dr. Jonathan Reiner, professor of Medicine at George Washington University, told CNN’s John King on” Inside Politics. ” “Other parts of the United States will no longer look like a pandemic.”

The idea that political motivations could be dictating vaccine reluctance is even more tragic because of the stellar efficacy of vaccines.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Thursday at a COVID-19 briefing at the White House that “99.5% of COVID-19 deaths in the United States occurred in unvaccinated people. “.

“Those deaths could be prevented with a simple and safe inoculation,” Walensky said.

Perceptions that millions of Republican voters are risking what West Virginia Republican Gov. Jim Justice calls a “death lottery” received new credibility thanks to a new report released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which showed a growing discrepancy in vaccination rates between counties that voted for Biden and those that voted for then-Republican President Donald Trump last November.

In April, the Trump area had an average vaccination rate of 20.6%, compared to 22.8% in the Biden territory. In July, the corresponding rates stood at 35% and 46.7%, respectively, a 9.5 percentage point jump in the gap.

The message from these data is clear: The nation’s hopes of eradicating Covid-19 may increasingly hinge on Republicans’ willingness to change their minds about vaccines.

This group is the least likely to be convinced by Biden’s calls to take the initiative and has an ingrained distrust of the government. You are also more likely to be influenced by misinformation about the vaccine program that is rampant in conservative media and on social media.

Parents are also victims of anti-vaccine movements 1: 04Biden asks the hesitant to get vaccinated

The White House has announced new approaches to reaching those who are unwilling to get vaccinated, including an increased reliance on general practitioners and pediatricians to reach young people over the age of 12, who are eligible to get vaccinated. It has also dispatched rapid response teams to areas where the virus is particularly widespread and where vaccine reluctance is high.

In recent days, officials, including Biden and the government’s top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, have been on television urging people to get vaccinated.

“Please get vaccinated now. It works. It’s free. And it’s never been easier and it’s never been more important,” Biden said Tuesday.

“Do it now, for yourself and the people you care about; for your neighborhood; for your country. It sounds corny, but it’s kind of patriotic.”

But some public health experts now think a more coercive approach might be necessary, even if the slightest suggestion to force vaccination would ignite conservative opinion. Right-wing pro-Trump Republicans like Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado have already compared Biden’s vaccination teams to the Nazis this week.

Former Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen told CNN on Thursday that the administration should try to change its tune and begin to emphasize that mass vaccination in personal and professional settings represents the best route to staying healthy.

“The federal government must be clear that vaccines are not just for the individual at this time. There seems to be this message coming from the Biden administration that if you are vaccinated, you are protected,” he said, noting that that line does not have in tells people who remain immunosuppressed or the possibility of disruptive infections.

Such an adjustment could convince more businesses, schools and workplaces to implement their own vaccine mandates and to encourage a broader effort to vaccinate as many Americans as possible, Wen said.

His argument reaches the most challenging aspect of this new phase of a crisis that, although much less severe than it was before, is also far from over.

“Our problem at the moment is not ‘can Pfizer make a vaccine?'” Emanuel said. “The problem is: ‘Will the Americans accept it?'”

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