Vermont hit a COVID milestone, of sorts, on Thursday. After nearly 16 months, yesterday marked the final daily update from the state Department of Health with regard to the pandemic.
“It has been a valuable tool to share information with the media, state and national partners throughout this response. We will continue to keep everyone informed through our regular communication channels,” the final update states. It has been issued daily for months; and previously as an online link.
The state reported that as of noon Thursday, there were two new COVID cases (24,412 total), with five individuals currently hospitalized; two in ICU. According to the final report, 403,216 people were tested, with more than 1.7 million total tests given. Finally, it states, some 24,000 individuals recovered from COVID since the tally started in Vermont in March 2020. There have been 257 deaths — the lowest number of any state in the nation.
In addition to the daily Vermont COVID totals, the final release urges the state’s eligible non-vaccinated citizens to get vaccinated at various pop-up clinics being made available this weekend, and it also offers tips for a safe Fourth of July.
Gov. Phil Scott had been pushing to get the state open for the national holiday.
Nearly all COVID-19 deaths in the United States now are among people who weren’t vaccinated, a staggering demonstration of how effective the shots have been and an indication that deaths per day — now down to under 300 — could be practically zero if everyone eligible got the vaccine.
An Associated Press analysis of available government data from May shows that “breakthrough” infections in fully vaccinated people accounted for fewer than 1,200 of more than 107,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations. That’s about 1.1%.
And only about 150 of the more than 18,000 COVID-19 deaths in May were in fully vaccinated people. That translates to about 0.8%, or five deaths per day on average.
The AP analyzed figures provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC itself has not estimated what percentage of hospitalizations and deaths are among fully vaccinated people, citing limitations in the data.
Among them: About 45 states report breakthrough infections, and some are more aggressive than others in looking for such cases. So the data probably understates such infections, CDC officials said.
Still, the overall trend that emerges from the data echoes what many health care authorities are seeing around the country and what top experts are saying.
In addition, published reports on Thursday suggest President Joe Biden came up well short on his goal of delivering 80 million doses of coronavirus vaccine to the rest of the world by the end of June as a host of logistical and regulatory hurdles slowed the pace of U.S. vaccine diplomacy.
Although the Biden administration has announced that about 50 countries and entities will receive a share of the excess COVID-19 vaccine doses, the U.S. has shipped fewer than 24 million doses to 10 recipient countries, according to an Associated Press tally. The White House says more will be sent in the coming days — with about 40 million doses expected to be shipped by the end of the week — and stresses that Biden has done everything in his power to meet the commitment.
It’s not for lack of doses. All the American shots are ready to ship. Rather, it’s taking more time than anticipated to sort through a complex web of legal requirements, health codes, customs clearances, cold-storage chains, language barriers and delivery programs. Complicating matters even further is that no two shipments are alike.
One country requires an act of its Cabinet to approve the vaccine donation, others require inspectors to conduct their own safety checks on the U.S. doses, and still others have yet to develop critical aspects of their vaccine distribution plans to ensure the doses can reach people’s arms before they spoil.
The White House has declined to specify which nations were struggling with which local hurdles, saying it is working with recipient nations on an individual basis to remove obstacles to delivery.
This has been a struggle from the get-go.
It took months for the U.S. to get its domestic vaccination program running at full throttle, and officials noted that Biden only shifted the focus of the nation’s COVID-19 response toward the global vaccination campaign less than two months ago.
According to the AP, even while missing his goal, Biden has made the U.S. the largest global vaccine donor, delivering more doses than either Russia or China, who have at times sought to leverage their vaccines for geopolitical gain.
Goals missed. Goals met. The past 16 months, measured in a daily tally, feels like a decade ago. But it is comforting to know, in an odd way perhaps, that we no longer need it.
This editorial first appeared in The Rutland Herald on July 2.