Covid-19 Live Updates: The Latest Global News


A lone person getting vaccinated in April in Elizabethton, Tenn., at a center that can accommodate 300 people a day. Several southern states are lagging in vaccinations.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Almost half of Americans have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. But the U.S. vaccination story varies widely across regions, with New England surging ahead of the national average, while much of the South is lagging far behind.

In five of the six New England states, over 60 percent of residents are at least partly vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s a different story in the South, where Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee have the country’s lowest rates of residents who have received at least one shot. The rates in those states are all below 40 percent, with Mississippi, at 33 percent, at the bottom of the list.

The White House and state governments, after relying on mass vaccination sites for months, are turning their focus to more targeted, smaller-scale efforts to vaccinate underserved, harder-to-reach communities.

“This next phase of the vaccination campaign was — will be driven, more than anything, by the people and organizations and communities who help to vaccinate their families, their friends and others in their neighborhoods,” Dr. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general, said on Friday during a White House news conference. “It’s why we’ve been saying that addressing access, motivation and vaccine confidence requires an all-hands-on-deck approach.”

That strategy has been employed by Dr. John B. Waits, the chief executive of Cahaba Medical Care, which has 17 clinics in underserved communities in Alabama.

“Conversations with people you trust have always been important to us,” he said on Friday. “I’ve been on Facebook Live. I say: ‘Ask us the hard questions. Let’s talk.’ We pivot to the individual exam room, where they trust me to answer. We’re having success with that approach, but it’s not at the speed that the pandemic needs.”

The low rate in the South worries Thomas A. LaVeist, an expert on health equity and dean of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans.

“You have the carrot and stick,” he said. “I’m beginning to think that the stick is the more likely scenario.”

Dr. LaVeist said the incentive that would work fastest for adults would be mandates by employers, who are uniquely positioned to require large numbers of Americans who otherwise would not receive a vaccination to do so because their employment depends on it. The federal government has issued guidance that says employers can require workers to get a Covid-19 vaccine and bar them from the workplace if they refuse.

But employer mandates wouldn’t address what Dr. LaVeist and other experts say is the biggest hurdle among the vaccine hesitant: anxiety over possible side effects. “How was it possible to deploy the vaccine so quickly? If more people understand that, then more people will take the vaccine,” Dr. LaVeist said. “Corners were not cut.”

A recent New York Times report from Greene County, a rural area in northeastern Tennessee, revealed the most common reason for vaccine apprehension was fear that the vaccine was developed in haste and that long-term side effects were unknown. Their decisions are also entangled in a web of views about autonomy, science and authority, as well as a powerful regional, somewhat romanticized self-image: We don’t like outsiders messing in our business.

Vaccine hesitancy in any U.S. region poses a threat to all Americans, experts warn, because the longer it takes to vaccinate people, the more time that
the virus has to spread, mutate and possibly gain the ability to evade vaccines.

“My big concern is that there is going to be a variant that’s going to outsmart the vaccine,” Dr. LaVeist said. “That’s what viruses do. That’s their strategy for surviving. Then we’ll have a new problem. We’ll have to revaccinate.”

A vaccination center in Karachi, Pakistan, this month. Critics say private sales in Pakistan and around the world make inoculations available only to the wealthy.
Credit…Asif Hassan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In Pakistan, an inoculation push is making doses available to those who can pay for them. But most Pakistanis can’t afford them, and even those who can are being stymied by tight global supplies.

Access to coronavirus vaccines has thrown a stark light on global inequality. The United States and other rich countries have bought up most of the world’s vaccine supplies to protect their own people, leaving millions of doses stockpiled and in some places unused. Less developed countries are scrambling over what’s left, with some like Pakistan turning to private sales.

“The Pakistani example is a microcosm of what has gone wrong with the global response — where wealth alone has primarily shaped who gets access,” Zain Rizvi, an expert on medicine access at Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group, said in an email. “Ending the pandemic will require the global community to do much more than just that.”

Pakistan says the private program could make more free shots available to low-income people. By purchasing doses of the Russian-made Sputnik 5 vaccine, the country’s wealthy wouldn’t need to get the free doses, which are made by Sinopharm of China.

The need for vaccines in Pakistan is growing. The country of nearly 220 million people is reporting more than 2,500 new infections a day, but its low rate of testing suggests many more cases remain undetected.

For those who can afford the doses, frustration is growing. Junaid Jahangir, an Islamabad-based lawyer, said several of his friends got private inoculations. He registered with a private lab for Sputnik V but got a text message later saying that the vaccination drive was on hold.

“I am being denied a fair chance to fight this virus if I end up getting infected,” he said.



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