With the nationwide vaccination numbers rising and covid-related safety precautions easing by the day, it might be easy for Americans to think that the coronavirus pandemic will soon be a thing of the past.
Nearly two-thirds of adults in the United States (63.4%) have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more than half are fully vaccinated (52.5%). Once the epicenter of the global pandemic with 33,166,506 cases and 593,961 deaths at press time, the country has seen an 80% drop in new cases since mid-April, The New York Times reports.
However, none of these improvements—much less the vastly improved quality of life many of us have been experiencing over the past few weeks—would have been possible had the U.S. not spent the last year hoarding vaccine doses. As the Times notes, there have been 2 billion doses administered worldwide so far, but only 0.3% of them were given to the poorest countries in the world, with wealthy nations like the U.S., Germany, and the United Kingdom snatching up approximately 85% of them.
The U.S. has announced plans to distribute at least 25 million doses worldwide before month’s end, but the Times says it won’t be nearly enough to assist countries struggling with alarming outbreaks like Malaysia, Argentina, or Botswana. Experts worry that the longer the coronavirus is allowed to spread unchecked, the more likely it will be to mutate past the point of being treatable by current vaccines.
“[This may be] the beginning of something terrible, and that’s what really concerns me,” Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told the paper. “The urgency is greater than ever.”