While the true toll from the pandemic last year may have been much higher – in part due to data delays, missed cases and incomplete reports – the figure is starkly reminiscent of the raging pandemic that continues. to kill millions of people around the world. world, even though vaccinations have stopped the worst of the spread of the disease in the United States To date, a total of nearly 600,000 deaths have been reported in the United States
Globally, more than 9,000 deaths on average from COVID-19 are still confirmed daily. This rate of newly reported deaths has steadily declined from its last peak in April, but remains above the record daily tolls from November of last year.
Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are also increasing in many countries. The World Health Organization warned this week that the Western Pacific region, which encompasses Asia, has again recorded its highest incidence of deaths to date.
“Increasingly, we are witnessing a two-track pandemic. Many countries still face an extremely dangerous situation, as some of those with the highest vaccination rates start talking about ending restrictions, ”the director general of the World Organization told reporters. health, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Monday.
Public health officials have repeatedly warned world leaders against prematurely relaxing COVID-19 restrictions in recent weeks, citing concerns about an increase in new strains of the rapidly spreading virus. The White House also raised concerns on Tuesday over recent data suggesting vaccines were significantly less effective after a dose against the B.1.617.2 variant first identified in India. President Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, has urged Americans to “make sure you get that second dose.”
Nicknamed the “Delta” variant by the World Health Organization, this mutation now appears to be causing outbreaks of cases in several countries around the world, even in the UK where 6 in 10 residents have at least one injection. COVID-19 vaccine. Health officials say there is evidence that being fully vaccinated still offers protection against all known variants.
In the United States, B.1.617.2 has already been spotted by laboratories in 49 states. The “Nowcast” projections published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that it could represent 6.1% of the virus circulating in the country.
The dark milestone also comes as President Biden touts a ‘historic’ purchase of 500 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer to be given to low- and middle-income countries and the African Union through 2022, at- beyond the 80 million doses he had promised to share by June.
“It’s also in America’s best interests. As long as the virus rages elsewhere, there is a risk of further mutations that could threaten our people, ”Biden said Thursday in announcing the purchase.
Global health officials hailed President Biden’s announcement as “an important step forward” to help address “urgent” vaccine dose shortages. The United States and other wealthy countries have come under increasing criticism for months for choosing to immunize their own children and other low-risk residents “at the expense of health workers and high-risk groups in the country. other countries “.
The Biden administration also recently announced that it would revoke its use of the Defense Production Act for the doses it had ordered from Novavax, Sanofi and AstraZeneca, potentially freeing up the supply of unused vaccines that had been accumulated under the powers of war for Americans.
However, the doses of President Pfizer’s purchase are not expected until August. The first delivery will only be “in the order of $ 50 million,” Gayle Smith, the State Department’s COVID-19 coordinator, said Thursday.
World leaders also urged the Food and Drug Administration to speed up its review of vaccine components manufactured by Emergent BioSolutions for Johnson & Johnson, which remain stranded around the world as the FDA probes potential cross-contamination of their batches.
And the United States has faced opposition to other measures that could help scale up the manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines in other countries, such as its support for a patent waiver which remains under discussion at the Organization. world trade.
“Six months after the administration of the first vaccines, high-income countries have administered almost 44% of the global doses. Low-income countries only administered 0.4%, ”Tedros told WHO member states on Thursday.
“The most frustrating thing about this statistic is that it hasn’t changed in months,” he added.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the average daily death toll.