The United States opened more distance between itself and much of the rest of the world on Thursday, nearing the 200 millionth vaccine administered in a months-long race to protect the population against COVID-19, even as other countries, rich and poor, struggle with stubbornly high infection rates and deaths.
Nearly half of American adults have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 30% of adults in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the picture is still relentlessly grim in parts of Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia as variants of the virus fuel an increase in new cases and the worldwide death toll closes in on 3 million.
France was expected on Thursday to pass 100,000 virus deaths, which would make it only the eighth country to do so.
India’s two largest cities, New Delhi and Mumbai, imposed business shutdowns and stringent restrictions on movement as new infections shot past 200,000. Some hotels and banquet halls were ordered to convert their space into wards for treating virus patients, and the surge forced India — a major vaccine producer — to delay exports of doses to other countries.
Japan also saw a rapid resurgence of infections just three months before it’s scheduled to host the Olympics. The country’s western metropolis of Osaka reported over 1,200 new infections Thursday, its highest since the pandemic began. A top ruling party official suggested the possibility of canceling the games if the infections make it impossible.
The decision to suspend the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to preliminary reports of rare blood clots has left South Africa without any shots in its battle against an aggressive coronavirus variant. South Africa has more than 1.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, including at least 53,000 deaths, representing more than 30% of all the confirmed cases in Africa’s 54 countries.
Meanwhile, Germany’s health ministry announced that the country administered a national record of more than 738,000 vaccine shots Wednesday, though authorities also warned that hospitals were seeing a dramatic rise in coronavirus patients.
More than a third of the world's deaths have occurred in three countries — the United States, Mexico and Brazil where, combined, more than 1.1 million have perished. The virus is claiming about 12,000 lives each day.
Back in the U.S., more than 194 million coronavirus shots have been administered nationwide, with the seven-day average of daily shots given hitting 2.9 million last week.
Still, new daily infections in the U.S. have increased 11% in the past two weeks. Many U.S. states have lifted restrictions on businesses and public gatherings, even as more sick people get admitted to hospitals in states such as Michigan, which leads the U.S. with nearly 8,000 new infections per day.
“Patients are again lining our hallways like they were last spring. This situation is very serious,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive and an emergency room doctor in Detroit. “We need to be using every tool in our toolbox right now to get these cases and hospitalizations down.”