New COVID-19 Strain and Bungled Vaccine Rollout Threaten the ‘Return to Normal’ in 2021
2020 is finally drawing to a close, thank goodness. Will 2021 be markedly better? A few weeks ago, that seemed like a pretty safe bet. In the midst of what seemed to be eternally rising COVID-19 case counts, we got news of not one but several successful vaccines. And then—poof!—they were being loaded in trucks and shipped around the United States.
In our virtual Reason office, we talked about the things we would do come summer 2021, when not just small gatherings but big public events become OK again. Someone bought tickets to a big arena concert. Someone is planning a trip overseas. It all seemed possible.
What a difference a week makes. The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is way slower and more disorganized than expected, sowing doubts that we’ll reach mass vaccination status in anything like a timely manner.
“If you listen to the time frame they’re talking about, it starts at about six months. We’d be at critical mass in June, and then [the estimate] went to about September, and now some people are talking about the end of the year,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a Wednesday press conference.
Governors are being WAY too precious about who gets this vaccine and we’re going to end up with millions of doses of expired vaccines if states don’t get serious about getting this out the door. These numbers are dangerously bad https://t.co/9VBv9nSEkr pic.twitter.com/RciNui1kSn
— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) December 30, 2020
Meanwhile, health authorities have started discovering cases of Americans infected with the new COVID-19 strain (in Colorado and California). While the new variant doesn’t appear to be more deadly, or even to make people sicker than the original strain, it does spread much more easily.
BREAKING: Newsom says about an hour ago, they were informed that the new UK covid-19 strain has been confirmed in Southern California
— Lara Korte (@lara_korte) December 30, 2020
How big of a problem the new variant will be here remains to be seen. Perhaps it’s limited to a few locales for now, but that seems unlikely, or at least unlikely to keep. But one thing is clear, based on the United Kingdom’s response to the variant and U.S. leaders’ handling of the pandemic so far: The variant will serve as a handy justification for politicians to reimpose lockdown orders or refuse to lift existing ones.
The good news is that existing vaccines are thought to work on the new variant. The bad news is that we’re not sure they will work as well. Here’s what bioinformatics specialist Trevor Bedford had to say to The Seattle Times:
Q: You’ve said
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