Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases specialist, said on Sunday that all he predicts all kids will be able to receive a vaccine against the coronavirus by the beginning of 2022.
Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said “kids of any age” should be able to get a vaccine by the first quarter of 2022.
Vaccine testing in kids still underway. Late-stage trial results, however, show that the Pfizer vaccine is highly effective at preventing the coronavirus in kids between the ages of 12 and 15. While children don’t typically develop the most severe symptoms of COVID-19, experts say getting them vaccinated is an important step towards herd immunity.
COVID-19 vaccines have been rolling out in the United States since December. Over 22% of the US population has so far been fully vaccinated against the disease, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Then, the CDC recommended vaccine providers prioritize people over the age of 75 and give them coronavirus vaccines. Some states like New York now allow all people 16 years or older to schedule and receive a vaccine.
In order to be fully vaccinated, individuals must receive two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Both have high efficacy rates, according to CDC data. CDC officials say getting both doses of either vaccine makes people up to 90% less likely to catch the virus.
Since the start of the pandemic last year, the coronavirus has infected more than 31 million people in the United States, JHU data says. Of that, more than 566,000 Americans have died from it.
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The vaccine race has intensified wealth inequality across the globe.
Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker found that the world’s wealthiest countries are vaccinating at 25 times the rate of the poorest countries. The database has thus far tracked more than 726 million doses administered in 154 countries.
So far, per the tracker, about 5% of the global population is able to get fully vaccinated. But the vaccines have been unevenly distributed, with 40% going to 27 wealthy countries that comprise 11% of the global population and 1.6% going to the countries comprising the poorest 11%.
Consider Pakistan. It has 2.7% of the world’s population, but has only received 0.1% of the vaccines. Meanwhile, the US, which accounts for 4.3% of the world’s population, has nearly a quarter of the world’s vaccines.
As of Thursday, the US has vaccinated nearly 20% of its population. It’s set to have enough vaccines for 75% of Americans by the end of June, per Bloomberg.
The pandemic has widened many wealth gaps
Patchy vaccine distribution is just the latest way the pandemic is exacerbating wealth inequality. In the US, the divide between the rich and the poor deepened as the economy’s recovery turned K-shaped, with higher-earning Americans recovering and lower-income Americans continuing to struggle.
The same dynamic has manifested on a global scale. While the global economy is expected to grow by 6% in 2021, according to IMF’s World Economic Outlook, that growth is projected to be uneven. Lower-income countries are expected to see an average annual loss of 5.7% per capita GDP from 2020 to 2024, but advanced economies will see a smaller loss of 2.3% in the same time frame.
“Recoveries are diverging dangerously across and within countries,” wrote Gita Gopinath, chief economist for the IMF.
She cited an analysis from researchers at Duke University’s Global Health Innovation Center that suggested these priority-supply deals between countries and drug manufacturers were undermining the World Health Organization’s initiative to equitably distribute vaccines.
The Biden administration committed $4 billion in February to Covax, a global vaccine alliance dedicated to ensuring equitable vaccine distribution, to help bolster the worldwide vaccine effort. More than 190 countries are participating.
“It’s unconscionable,” Zain Rizvi, an expert on access to medicine at Public Citizen, told Rauhala in a follow-up story. “Many countries will be lucky if by the end of the year they are close to where the US is now.”
As vaccines roll out across American, thousands of people aren’t getting vaccinated at CVS pharmacies or local health clinics. Instead, they’re heading to abandoned Kmarts, Sears, and Toys R Us stores to get their shots.
For American companies that have seen store counts collapse in recent years, the symbolism of having abandoned stores turned into mass vaccination clinics highlights how quickly the world was changing before the pandemic, and how COVID-19 accelerated a shift to an unfamiliar and sometimes dystopian future.
The end of the COVID-19 pandemic might be in sight as vaccine shots ramp up, but crumbling malls, the country’s haphazard approach to healthcare, and brands looking to capitalize on the “new normal” suggest our new dystopian reality is here to stay.
American malls are dying a slow and painful death
The last decade has seen American cultural touchstones disintegrate as part of the retail apocalypse.
Companies like Sears and JCPenney spent over 100 years building their brands into household names – but it took only 10 years for an apocalypse to sweep through the retail industry, leaving vacant stores and dead malls in its wake.
The American mall began to face “a death spiral,” John M. Clapp, a professor at the University of Connecticut’s Center for Real Estate, told Insider in 2017.
“Once a department store goes vacant that tends to be contagious because all those middle-mall stores – the nail salons and the jewelry stores – they are all depending on the traffic coming from the bigger retail stores,” he said.
A report from Coresight Research cited by CNBC last August estimated that out of roughly 1,000 American malls, a quarter will close down in the next three to five years.
And, of course, it’s impossible to ignore the Amazon effect: The Seattle bookseller sparked an e-commerce boom, leading to a race to the top for Amazon and its main competition, Walmart, and opening the direct-to-consumer floodgates. Companies like Glossier, Allbirds, and Casper led the way, eschewing a traditional retail experience in favor of online-only shopping. (Of course, all of those brands eventually opened retail experiences of their own.)
The pandemic has only made matters worse. Retail vacancy rates are nearing a seven-year high, after major chains announced closures of more than 12,000 stores in 2020. Moody’s Analytics projects that roughly 135 million square feet of vacant space may become available in regional malls nationwide within the next five years. These vacancies have left malls abandoned, and they readily turned into vaccination sites.
Many laid off retail workers have either pivoted to discount chains that pay employees significantly less, or Amazon itself. And though Amazon pays workers $15 an hour, warehouse jobs are more physically demanding and delivery drivers said they’ve dehydrated themselves to get through a shift without bathroom breaks.
In lieu of an adequate government safety net to ensure Americans get fair pay and health care even as businesses shutter, brands are – unfortunately – left to pick up the pieces.
Things are only going to get weirder
The complete disruption of the pandemic puts Americans in a position where the “new normal” is a flexible term. As seen by the transformation of malls into vaccination sites, something that would seem straight out of “28 Days Later” in 2019 can be completely acceptable in 2021.
The factors that allowed for this cobbled together solution – a broken retail system saving a healthcare system stretched to the breaking point – are not going away.
The inclination to turn to companies to fix broken infrastructure can run the gambit from creative at best to disturbing at worst. For example:
Domino’s announced a campaign to fill potholes in 2018, allowing customers to nominate their towns for repairs.
And as state governments work to vaccinate their citizens as quickly and efficiently as possible, they’ve turned to other capitalist symbols of the before-times to help carry out their plans.
Beginning in January, lines snaked around the parking lot at Disneyland, but not to visit Thunder Mountain or the Haunted Mansion – the theme park, shuttered since March 2020, became a “super” vaccination site where hundreds of thousands of doses have been administered.
Major league sports stadiums, many of which sat empty and dark for most of last year, have also become mass vaccination sites. Where fans would have once lined up to get let into a football or baseball game, they’re now lining up to get a COVID shot.
Brands have been bailing out the US health system throughout the pandemic. Coors beer breweries transformed into hand sanitizer manufacturers. Volkswagen made hospital equipment after the country’s gown and mask shortage got so bad nurses resorted to wearing trash bags.
This kind of corporate contingency plan shows no sign of stopping after the pandemic subsides – in fact, it may even be coming for schools next. A mall in Vermont became a safe-haven for a high school after the school, just before it was set to reopen for in-person learning, was found to have elevated levels of toxic chemicals known to cause cancer.
These self-serving tactics should be taken as a warning sign as the US increasingly relies on brands to build a post-pandemic future. In some cases, companies have unique insight into problems – such as a Chick-fil-A manager helping with a vaccine drive-thru. But, relying too fully on corporations whose ultimate focus is their bottom line is not just dystopian, it’s dangerous.
The pandemic has shown just how quickly things can change. As the country rebuilds, it needs to be on solid ground, instead of relying on the magnanimity of brands.
A shot for every American. Political leaders and vaccine manufacturers have endeavored to meet this goal since the start of the pandemic, and it could finally become a reality this summer.
An advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration will vote Friday on whether to recommend Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus shot for emergency authorization. An FDA review on Wednesday showed the shot is safe and effective against COVID-19.
If J&J’s shot gets the green light as expected, it will be the third coronavirus shot to be distributed across the US. Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have been administered to more than 45 million Americans thus far, though fewer than 21 million Americans have gotten the full two-dose regimen.
Pfizer and Moderna have pledged to distribute 600 million doses to the US public by the end of July – enough to fully vaccinate 300 million people. J&J, meanwhile, has said it could deliver up to 100 million doses of its vaccine by the end of June.
That means that by the summer, the US would have more than enough doses to vaccinate all 332 million-plus Americans (though shots haven’t been authorized for children under 16 yet).
Here’s a timeline of how vaccinations could ramp up in the next five months:
March 31: 240 million doses distributed
May 31: 420 million doses distributed
June 30: 500 million doses distributed
July 31: 700 million doses distributed
Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines are each more than 90% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19, while J&J’s appears to be 66% effective at preventing moderate and severe cases. It’s difficult to compare the companies’ trials side-by-side, though, since they happened at different stages in the pandemic and in different geographic regions.
End of March: Wrapping up vaccinations for priority groups
J&J originally planned to deliver 12 million doses by the end of February. But federal officials have said that just 3 to 4 million doses would be immediately available next week, assuming the FDA authorizes the shot.
By the end of March, the company will likely have produced 20 million doses, Richard Nettles, J&J’s vice president of US medical affairs, said at a House committee hearing on Tuesday.
Jeffrey Zients, the White House coronavirus czar, called the slow pace of J&J’s manufacturing “disappointing” on Wednesday. But the government has started helping the company procure equipment and raw materials, he said, which is accelerating the pace.
Pfizer and Moderna, meanwhile, are on track to distribute a cumulative 220 million doses by March 31.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Pfizer’s chief business officer, John Young, said the company intends to make 120 million doses available by the end of March (including the roughly 40 million doses shipped so far). Moderna’s president, Stephen Hoge, said the company would deliver 100 million doses (including 54 million that have gone out already) within the same time frame.
That means the US could finish vaccinating priority groups – including the elderly, essential workers, and people with high-risk medical conditions – next month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that these groups encompass roughly 200 million people.
End of May: The general population gets its shots
In total, all three pharmaceutical companies are expected to deliver around 420 million doses by the end of May. Vaccinations for the general public could be in full swing by April.
Pfizer is on track to produce an additional 80 million doses by the end of May, bringing the company’s US total to 200 million. Moderna originally planned to deliver an additional 100 million doses in the US by the end of June, but now those should arrive in May.
Both companies are also still trying to speed up their vaccine rollouts.
Pfizer told USA TODAY it has added more production lines at its manufacturing plants, reduced the amount of time it takes to produce vaccine batches, and will soon cut down the time it takes to make DNA for the vaccines. In January, the FDA also instructed vaccinators to squeeze six doses from every vial of Pfizer’s vaccine, rather than the five that were initially authorized in December.
Hoge said Moderna is “working to enable up to 15 doses per vial in the near term,” instead of the 10 that vaccinators extract right now.
A recent report from the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning think tank, found that 50% of the US population could be protected from COVID-19 by mid-May if the J&J shot gets authorized. Without that third vaccine, it could take an additional two to three weeks to reach that point, the researchers said.
End of June: All adults could have access to a shot
Nettles said J&J could deliver up to 100 million vaccine doses by June 30 (including the 20 million doses from the spring). That would bring the total coronavirus shots distributed in the US to 500 million – enough to vaccinate 300 million people, or all of the roughly 259 million adults in the US.
Federal officials still hope J&J can speed up that timeline.
“We’re working with the company to accelerate the pace and timeframe by which they deliver the full 100 million doses, which is required by contract by the end of June,” Zients said Wednesday.
The American Enterprise Institute estimated that 75% of the US population could be protected from COVID-19 by mid- to late June, assuming that J&J’s shot gets authorized.
End of July: The US could have a surplus of doses
By the end of July, the US could have more vaccines than it’s able to distribute.
Experts don’t expect the nation’s roughly 73 million children to start getting coronavirus shots until the fall or winter – or perhaps early 2022 – because there is not yet data about the vaccines’ safety or efficacy among younger age groups. (The exception is Moderna’s shot, which is authorized for ages 16 and up.)
Both Pfizer and Moderna intend to deliver another 100 million doses each by the end of July, bringing the companies’ total doses to 300 million each. The US hasn’t purchased more than that, though it has the option to buy 200 million more doses each from J&J, Moderna, and Pfizer.
According to the American Enterprise Institute, “the addition of a third [vaccine] candidate will mean that anywhere from 22% to 33% more of the population can be vaccinated by July.”
More than 100,000 vaccine doses have been administered at Disneyland, Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced during the company’s fiscal first-quarter earnings call on Thursday.
Disney announced last month that it would turn part of its Disneyland resort in Southern California into a mass-vaccination site, the first of five “Super” points of dispensing being set up in Orange County, where Disneyland is located.
Essential workers and people over 70 years old were among the first group offered vaccines at the theme park. On the night before the site began operating, 10,000 people signed up to receive vaccines, causing the county’s website to crash, according to CBS Los Angeles.
Local firefighters and paramedics vaccinated 3,000 people on the first day of operation, CBS reported. Orange County has said it plans to complete all vaccinations in the county by July 4, 2021.
Southern California has been hit hard by the pandemic. Insider’s Aria Bendix reported that Los Angeles has recorded more cases and deaths than any other county in the US, the majority of which occurred during the last two months. Epidemiologists blamed the surge on a range of factors, including overcrowded multi-generational homes, a new local variant of the virus, and increasing pandemic fatigue in the region.
Orange County has tallied about 241,000 cases since the onset of the virus and 3,493 deaths, according to the Orange County Register.
Disneyland has been shut down since mid-March, although Walt Disney World, in Florida, is currently operating. The park’s closure, along with the suspension of Disney’s cruise business and closures of other parks worldwide, has had a serious impact on Disney’s business: The company said during its earnings call Thursday that operating income from its parks experiences and product business declined “significantly” versus the year prior for a loss of $119 million.
One of Amazon’s top executives is offering to help President Joe Biden with his pledge to vaccinate 100 million Americans during his first 100 days in office.
Dave Clark, the CEO of Amazon’s consumer business and Jeff Bezos’ second-in-command, sent a letter to Biden shortly after he was sworn in on Wednesday, congratulating the new president and offering to help with the vaccination effort.
“We are prepared to leverage our operations, information technology, and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration’s vaccination efforts,” Clark wrote. “Our scale allows us to make a meaningful impact immediately in the fight against COVID-19, and we stand ready to assist you in this effort.”
Clark also wrote that Amazon’s 800,000 US workers, most of whom have been deemed essential, should receive the vaccine at the “earliest appropriate time” and that the company has partnered with a third-party healthcare provider to administer the vaccine at Amazon’s facilities.
Last month, Clark wrote a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention making a similar request. He emphasized that many workers in Amazon’s fulfillment centers or employees at Whole Foods Markets nationwide cannot work from home and have been supplying Americans with essential goods throughout the pandemic.
Biden pledged last month that his administration will ramp up the pace of vaccinations by “five to six times the current pace to 1 million shots a day,” an initiative that he said would require more funding from Congress.
“The effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should,” Biden said last month, adding that at the current rate, “it’s going to take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people.”