NASHVILLE – Public health departments have organized vaccination clinics in churches. They organized trips to clinics. Door to door. Even offered a ride on a NASCAR track to anyone who wanted to try their luck.
Yet the United States’ vaccination campaign is floundering, especially in the South, where there are far more doses than people who will take them.
As reports of new Covid-19 cases and nationwide deaths crumble and many Americans venture out without a mask, experts fear the virus may eventually reappear in states like Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, where less than half of adults have had a first injection.
“I don’t think people appreciate that if we give up on immunization efforts we might be back where we started,” said Dr Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama to Birmingham.
There is a slew of theories as to why the South, which was home to eight of the 10 states with the lowest vaccination rates on Wednesday, is lagging behind: hesitation from conservative whites, concerns from some black residents, long-standing challenges in terms of health, access to care and transport.
The answer, revealed by interviews across the region, was all of the above.
” There is no miracle solution. There is no perfect solution, ”said Dr. W. Mark Horne, president of the Mississippi State Medical Association.
Time is running out, both to prevent new infections and to use the doses already distributed to states. Variants of the coronavirus are spreading, in particular the highly transmissible and increasingly widespread Delta variant, first detected in India. And millions of doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will expire across the country this month, prompting some governors to issue urgent appeals for health providers to use them soon.
From rural Appalachia to cities like Birmingham and Memphis, the downturn has forced authorities to sharpen their arguments with residents. Among the latest offers: mobile clinics, Facebook Live forums and free football tickets for those who get vaccinated.
RIO DE JANEIRO – World Health Organization officials on Wednesday reiterated their calls on governments around the world to speed up plans to distribute coronavirus vaccines to hard-hit countries, warning that many countries in Latin America were continuing to see the number of cases increase.
“In our region, this year has been worse than last year,” said Dr Carissa F. Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, which is part of WHO. point in this pandemic. “
The comments came as President Biden prepared to announce that his administration would purchase 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and give them to around 100 countries over the next year, according to people familiar with the plan. Mr Biden could announce the arrangement as early as Thursday, as he begins his first trip abroad as president.
It is not yet clear to which countries the 500 million doses of vaccine would be delivered, but Latin America is among the regions where the need is urgent. Eight of the 10 countries with the highest rate of Covid deaths per capita are in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
And although hospitals in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and other countries where the virus continues to aggressively spread have created overflow facilities, health systems in several countries in the region are struggling. to face, said Dr Etienne during the WHO virtual press conference on Wednesday morning.
“Despite the doubling or even tripling of hospital beds across the region, intensive care beds are full, oxygen is lacking and health workers are overwhelmed,” she said.
Most governments in Latin America are struggling to acquire enough doses to rapidly vaccinate their populations, which will delay their ability to fully reopen economies, officials said.
Last week, Biden said the United States would distribute 25 million doses this month to countries in the Caribbean and Latin America; South and Southeast Asia; Africa; and the Palestinian territories, Gaza and the West Bank. These doses are the first of 80 million Mr. Biden has pledged to send overseas by the end of June.
Dr Etienne said only a more equitable distribution system would end the pandemic for the foreseeable future.
“Today we are witnessing the emergence of two worlds, one is quickly returning to normal and the other where recovery is a distant future,” said Dr Etienne. “Unfortunately, the vaccine supply is concentrated in a few countries while most countries of the world wait for the doses to flow.”
She highlighted the vaccine shortage in Central America, home to more than 44 million people, where just over two million have been vaccinated. Less than three million people have been vaccinated in the Caribbean countries, which have a population of just over 34 million.
Nevada man accused of stealing more than 500 blank Covid-19 vaccine cards from the Los Angeles vaccination site where he worked was charged Wednesday with one count of grand theft, according to the prosecutor’s office from Los Angeles County.
The man, Muhammad Rauf Ahmed, 46 of Las Vegas, was arrested in April, but the charge was delayed as police and prosecutors sought to determine the value of the cards, which was ultimately tried at “au minus $ 15 apiece if illegally sold. “
Across the country, many bars, restaurants and businesses that operate with limited capacity have relaxed restrictions on people who can prove they have received the vaccine, creating an underground market for falsified or fraudulent vaccine cards.
In January, fake vaccination cards were being sold on eBay, Etsy, Facebook and Twitter, with prices ranging from $ 20 to $ 60. In May, a California bar owner was arrested for selling fake vaccination cards for $ 20 apiece.
Mr Ahmed was a non-clinical contract employee hired to work at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds vaccination site, where nearly 4,000 vaccines are administered daily, the La Verne Police Department said on Tuesday. east of Los Angeles County, in a statement.
La Verne detectives recover more than 500 blank COVID-19 vaccine cards stolen from the Fairplex Mega-POD.
– La Verne Police Department (@LaVernePD) June 8, 2021
On April 27, the ministry was contacted after a site security guard spotted Mr. Ahmed leaving a batch of distinctive cards in hand, Detective Sgt. Cory Leeper said in an interview on Wednesday.
Eventually, two staff at the vaccination site confronted Mr. Ahmed with his car, the detective sergeant said. Mr Ahmed told them he liked going to his car during his break and that on that day he sought to “pre-fill” the cards with information that was sent to each recipient in order to get ahead of their load. work, said Detective Sgt. .
Officials recovered 128 cards from Mr Ahmed’s vehicle, police said, and when questioned further, Mr Ahmed admitted that he may have taken additional cards. Police found 400 blank cards in the hotel room where he was staying. Mr. Ahmed was arrested. Efforts to reach him by phone on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
“The sale of fraudulent and stolen vaccination cards is illegal, immoral and puts the public at risk of exposure to a deadly virus,” said George Gascón, the Los Angeles district attorney, on Wednesday.