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Coronavirus Briefing: Vaccines, Year Two



On December 14, 2020, a New York nurse became the first person in the United States to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. This week, the country took another important milestone: more than 200 million Americans are now fully immunized. Today, a year after the start of the vaccination campaign, I will see how it goes.

The United States made significant strides in 2021, even as it faced misinformation, deep-rooted skepticism, and powerful new variants. Overall, about 60 percent of the population has been fully immunized. Among people aged 65 and over, the most vulnerable population, this figure is over 87%.

“These are very good things,” said my colleague Danielle Ivory, investigative reporter for The Times who followed the vaccine deployment. “Remember that last year around this time, when the vaccine first became available, the supply was so low that only a small number of people in the country were eligible.”

Today, providers administer about 1.92 million doses per day on average, including boosters. The daily rate has been rising steadily since the government expanded eligibility, and it has jumped since Thanksgiving, when the Omicron variant was discovered.

But the pace of vaccinations varies wildly across the country, and there are a number of counties, many in the south and west, where less than 30% of the population is fully vaccinated. The United States also lags behind 50 other countries, many of which have vaccinated more than 80 percent of their population.

There are a lot of reasons people don’t get the vaccine. Surveys indicate that some categorically refuse vaccines, while others are open to vaccination but have postponed it or want to wait and see before making a decision.

The first group tends to be disproportionately white, rural, evangelical Christian, and politically conservative. The second group tends to be more diverse, comprising many young people, blacks, Latin Americans and Democrats. Health officials have made progress in inoculating this group, but surveys suggest it makes up less than half of all unvaccinated adults in the United States.

As the country adjusts to the size of the anti-vaccine population, the goal posts are also shifting. At the start of the pandemic, experts estimated that to reach the collective immunity threshold, 60 to 70% of the population would need to be fully vaccinated. But with the emergence of stronger variants, experts now put that number at 90% or more.

Will the United States ever get there? A number of factors will determine the country’s success, including the pace of new vaccinations and the number of people receiving immunity due to infection.

The projection below, based on the current rate of newly vaccinated people, provides a rough indication of when the spread of the virus could start to slow.

Many epidemiologists are not sure whether it is possible to achieve such a high rate.

“Unfortunately, I think collective immunity is a pretty difficult goal to achieve,” Danielle said. “So other than that, as new variants emerge, policymakers may need to think beyond vaccination and consider other ways to try to mitigate the virus.”

Omicron is also a wild card. If new variants reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, boosters may be needed to control the pandemic. The United States averages over 120,000 cases per day, with more than 55,000 hospital patients nationwide as we move into the colder months, when transmission is overfed.

Exemption from skepticism: A new survey has found that about 60% of Americans are critical of religious exemptions to Covid vaccines.


Britain has been an indicator for other wealthy Western countries during the pandemic, and so may its experience with the new variant.

Omicron cases are doubling there every three days, and as my colleague Megan Specia reports, the country is bracing for a new wave of coronavirus. So far, officials are uncertain whether this will be a relatively minor event or a throwback to the dark days of previous pandemic waves.

Britain has one of the most robust systems in the world for sequencing viral genomes, which allows it to identify and track new variants earlier and in greater depth than other countries. The country’s Health Security Agency on Wednesday released new data which it said “suggests that Omicron has a significant growth advantage over Delta.” The agency warned that if the recent growth rate continues, the country expects to “see at least 50% of Covid-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant in the next two to four weeks.”

Worryingly, the data also showed an increased risk of transmission in households, a key indicator of how quickly the variant can spread.

In response to Omicron, Britain reversed the course of some restrictions this week, urging people to work from home where possible, introducing new rules on masks and requiring people to show vaccine passports to some places.

Restricted reservations: The variant brings new concerns to UK businesses.


Today’s question was answered by Heather Murphy, who covers travel for The Times. (If you have a question, you can fill out this form.)

I am triple vaccinated and have no underlying health problems. With the new variant, do I have to cancel my international vacation travel plans strictly for fun? Allison, California

It depends on where you are going and what you have planned for the first two weeks after your scheduled return. You should know that you will need to present a negative coronavirus test to re-enter the United States. Even if you are careful, there is always the possibility that you may be infected. Particularly in areas with low vaccination rates or high infection rates, you will need to be careful when gathering indoors. Because even if you don’t have any symptoms, if your test is positive, you won’t be able to go home right away. In some countries you will need to quarantine yourself for more than a week in a government approved facility. In others, you will just need to isolate yourself in a location of your choosing until you test negative. Either way, you may want to purchase travel insurance and bring your laptop if you are allowed to work remotely.

Travel abroad? Here are the essential papers to have in your bag.



When the governor of New Mexico first shut us down in March 2020, people kept calling me and asking if I was okay. “I’m fine,” I said, “I’m an anxious, antisocial, agoraphobic widow. This is my life. ”I bought myself some really stylish pajamas and sat on my sofa with my two dogs and watched movies. Heaven. This summer things started to open up and the life is good here I am vaccinated and had a third injection because I am taking immunosuppressive drugs I go where I want, I do what I want and I wear a mask.

– Georgellen Burnett, Santa Fe

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