(Reuters) – More than half a million people have died from the coronavirus in the United States, as the country races to vaccinate its most vulnerable populations before a new variant of the deadly disease spreads.
More people have died in the United States from COVID-19 than any other country in the world. With 4% of the world’s population, the United States has 20% of all deaths from COVID and one of the highest death rates per 100,000 population, surpassed only by a few countries such as Belgium, Great Britain and Italy. (Graphic: tmsnrt.rs/34pvUyi)
Unlike many countries around the world that have national lockdown and undercover mandates, former US President Donald Trump left public health decisions up to state and local governments, resulting in patches of rules that often run counter to the advice of doctors and health officials. After many unmasked year-end holiday gatherings, January has become the deadliest month of the pandemic so far with an average of 3,000 people dying each day.
With a total death toll of over 500,000, one in every 673 US population has died from the pandemic. Global deaths have reached 2.57 million or one in every 3,000 people on the planet.
The United States has reported more than 28 million cases to date, about 25% of all global infections. After peaking at nearly 300,000 new cases in a single day on January 8, the United States now reports about 70,000 new infections every day.
However, a new variant of the virus threatens to disrupt the road to normality.
Officials have also warned that most of these cases are from a more contagious variant first discovered in Great Britain called B.1.1.7, which could become the dominant variant in the United States in March.
Health officials are also concerned about a variant first identified in South Africa called 501Y.V2, which has multiple mutations in the important “spike” protein that today’s vaccines target.
Vaccination: SILVER LAYER
About 15% of the US population has received at least one dose of the vaccine so far and more than 63 million doses have been given, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At current rates, it will take the United States more than nine months or until the end of November this year to vaccinate 75% of the country’s population. Even if the current rate is to double, it will still take until early July to vaccinate 75% of the population.
In early February, the Biden administration said it was exploring options to increase production of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, which is one-shot and can be stored in the refrigerator. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Inc vaccines both require two doses and the Pfizer vaccine requires a dedicated freezer.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is under review by US health regulators, and a panel of experts from the Food and Drug Administration is expected to discuss authorizing emergency use of the vaccine this week.
However, US President Joe Biden said in early February that it would be difficult for the United States to achieve herd immunity, at least 75% of the inoculated population, by the end of this summer.
Vaccine rollouts have been a challenge as the Trump administration leaves it up to states to design and implement their own launch plans. The United States also does not have a national health care system and often relies on grocery stores and drugstore chains to provide immunizations.
This has led to increasing discrepancies between states in the progress of vaccination, including that blacks and Hispanics are lagging behind in inoculation. In many parts of the country, long lines and hours of waiting times are not uncommon.
White House officials said last week that the country had 6 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in stock because of the bad weather that has engulfed much of the United States.
Reporting by Sangameswaran S. in Bengaluru; Edited by Lisa Shumaker