Tag: herd immunity
Ohio's Covid vaccine lottery

How Do We Finally Crush The Virus? A $50 Million Lottery!

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

In the United States, COVID-19 is rapidly becoming an endemic disease of Republicans. Over the last seven days, the nation has averaged 45.6 cases per 100,000 people, or just under 22,000 new cases per day. That means the average has now dipped below the measure on June 14, 2020, before the second wave swept across the South. In a few days, it's likely that the number will be down to a level matching that within weeks of the first large outbreak in this country (and a point where numbers were still largely constrained by lack of testing). That represents a tremendous drop from a national number that topped 750 cases/million, or roughly a quarter million a day, in January.

The reason for the decline is simple enough: As of Thursday, 62 percent of American adults had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. In 10 states, most of them in the Northeast, that number now exceeds 70 percent. However, a number of other states are lagging tremendously. That includes eight states where the rate is below 50 percent.

And the truth is, even the best of those number is not enough. That 70 percent of adults—which is only about 50 percent of the total population—is well short of what we need. Unless the U.S. can reach a number that's close to 80 percent of all people being vaccination, it is unlikely to achieve herd immunity given the high rate of transmission among more recent variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. If that number can't be achieved, COVID-19 numbers will go down but the community spread of the disease won't go away, and that has serious long term implications that go beyond questions of masks and frustrations about when it's safe to fully open X, Y, or Z.

How do we get enough people engaged to make that happen? Bribe them. Because it's worth it.

Last week, the Associated Press ran an article on the growing concern over this vaccination gap, which was careful to talk about the difference among states and the rural-urban gap within states while mostly tiptoeing around the cause. But there's really only one cause.

Ten states exceed 70 percent, but eight states are lagging below 50 percent.

According to Civiqs, 86 percent of Democrats say they've been vaccinated and eight percent say they will be vaccinated for a total of 94 percent. Half of the remainder is unsure, with only three percent saying no. But among Republicans, 47 percent say they have been vaccinated and four percent still say they will be vaccinated for a total of 51 percent. A full 40 percent of Republicans still give a flat no. Put it all together with independents, and 73 percent of American adults are committed to getting vaccinated while 21 percent say no. And 73 perceent of adults is simply not enough, not if we want to reach the point where COVID-19 cases are not just down, but the virus genuinely ceases to circulate in the community.

In the last six weeks, Pfizer's vaccine has been approved for use in those between ages of 12 and 18. Moderna's vaccine should be approved for the same age range within the next two weeks, with Johnson & Johnson close behind. About 6 million Americans between 12 and 18 have been vaccinated already, and that number should accelerate—especially if states or local school districts require vaccination before students can return to school in the fall. That change in the availability of vaccine is actually visible in the national rate of vaccine administration in the form of a little "bump" starting in mid-May.

Daily count of total doses administered and reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That the vaccine numbers peaked and then began to fall may seem like failure, but it's actually inevitable. After all, people can only get vaccinated once (or, you know, twice) and eventually everyone is vaccinated. The real problem with this chart is that the peak should have come about a month—and about 50 million Americans—later.

There is some indication that Republican resistance is softening. The numbers giving a definitive "no" began to fall slightly around the same time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cleared the vaccine for those aged 12, and there was a recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation showing that 40 percent of those in the "wait and see" group could tip to the "yes" category if the vaccines gain full FDA approval. Which is good. But it's still not enough, as that would only add three to four percent more to the totals.

Which brings us to incentives. Ohio has now announced its first million-dollar winner in a vaccine lottery, and as The New York Times reports, the idea is picking up steam across the country. That's because, as Axios has charted out, the idea seems to have worked. Ohio didn't just hand out $1 million to a lucky 22-year-old young female engineer, it also generated a measurable increase in vaccinations.

In fact, Ohio's experiment has been successful enough that California, Colorado, Maryland, and Oregon have signed up to offer similar incentives. And that's great. Except that these are some of the same states with high levels of vaccination already. The incentives might be able to push those areas above the magic number, but what it won't do is save us from where we're going right now—toward a point where COVID-19 is an endemic disease of Republican-dominated communities.

On the one hand, it may be easy to shrug off that result. On the other hand … no. Giving COVID-19 the chance to continue bouncing around between millions of Americans means not just more variants, but also more exposure for those who can't, for genuine medical reasons, be vaccinated.

So here's a simple solution: a national lottery. Toss $50 million into the pot and hand out a million-dollar prize to some lucky someone, anywhere in the nation, who has received a vaccine—with a new prize being awarded only when the nation goes up another percentage point in total vaccination. Televise it. Let President Joe Biden put his hand in a fishbowl. Do whatever it takes to get people to get a jab in the arm.

Seeing those who have spent months denying COVID-19, scoffing at the vaccine, and sneering at people wearing masks suffer the consequences may seem like karma. But it's also keeping the nation at risk.

National lottery. Let's do it.

How America Can Achieve Herd Immunity Despite Republican Stupidity

How America Can Achieve Herd Immunity Despite Republican Stupidity

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

This is the good news: COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and lasting. The vaccines already looked good in their phase 3 trials before release, but since they've gone into widespread use, they've actually exceeded expectations. Since the vaccines first went into use, there are now additional months' worth of data showing that those who participated in the trials for these vaccines are still enjoying a powerful immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus more than six months later. Odds are very good that the real duration of these vaccines will exceed a year.

This is the bad news: The United States is unlikely to reach herd immunity. That doesn't mean that COVID-19 will continue to burn through the population, producing thousands of new cases and hundreds of deaths each day. The number of people already vaccinated, and those who say they still intend to be vaccinated, is enough that the rate of transmission will be impacted significantly. However, not enough people are getting vaccinated to truly end community transmission. So it's extremely likely that COVID-19 will become an endemic disease, flaring up from time to time in communities where vaccination rates are too low, and constantly threatening to toss off a new variant that puts everything back at square one.

The reason for this hasn't changed. It's Republican resistance to vaccination. Despite everything, including the evidence of hundreds of millions of people who have been vaccinated and not either burst into flames or fallen on their knees before Bill Gates, 46 percent of Republicans still say they will not take the COVID-19 vaccine. Because of that, even if everyone who currently says they will get vaccinated gets their jab, and everyone who says they're still uncertain decides to join in, it's still only going to be about 60 percent of the population. That's not enough.

But there's a reason to hope this isn't permanent.

If the numbers from Civiqs vaccination data are totaled up, it actually comes to 76 percent. The number of people who have been vaccinated has corresponded closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data on vaccination since the start of the year, with the Civiqs response "I have already been vaccinated" consistently falling just a percentage point or two behind the CDC value for the percent of the population over 18 that has received at least one shot.

If 76 percent of the population were to be vaccinated, it might actually be enough to reach, or at least approximate, herd immunity. It's unclear what the magic number really is for COVID-19. Somewhere in the 70 percent range was likely sufficient for the variants that first swept the United States. However, more recent variants are contagious enough that they might need something like 90 percent — the kind of numbers usually associated with extremely contagious diseases like measles.

But the reason that the Civiqs 76 percent isn't really 76 percent of the population is a paragraph back in the definition of the matching CDC number: "of the population over 18." The Civiqs data, like the CDC data, has so far been limited to adults. (Note: There's actually a bit of a gap in the existing data as the Pfizer vaccine is actually authorized for those over 16 rather than 18.)

Since children under 18 make up over 20 percent of the U.S. population, it's nearly impossible to reach real herd immunity until some of the vaccine goes to younger people. Fortunately, that's going to happen soon. The FDA is preparing to authorize the use of Pfizer's vaccine in children as young as 12.

This follows a report from Pfizer at the end of March in which they indicated a vaccine efficacy of 100 percent in a trial of over 2,000 volunteers between the ages of 12 and 15. Based on that data, Pfizer is expected to ask the FDA to modify the existing emergency use authorization to extend the use of their vaccine down to children as young as 12 right away. Pfizer is also conducting trials on children as young as 6 months old, and expectations are that they will submit an emergency use authorization for vaccine use down to the age of 2 sometime later in the year.

Pfizer isn't alone. Moderna is also engaged in a phase 2/3 trial for kids down to 6 months old and should be reporting results from its trial of 12 to 17 year olds in the next few weeks. Johnson & Johnson is also in the midst of a clinical trial on children 12 to 17, but hasn't yet made an announcement concerning children below 12.

All of this suggests that when school starts again next August, it's highly likely that most middle schools and high schools will require children to be vaccinated. There will, of course, be protests from the same Republicans who are refusing to be vaccinated themselves, and any number of local school boards and administrators who join in the anti-vax screeds. Even so, it's likely that the rate of vaccination among younger people will exceed that among adults. Which might be enough to, finally, tick the overall rate of vaccination to the point where community transmission of COVID-19 starts to falter.


Across the United States, Civiqs shows just 15 percent of adults who have yet to be vaccinated but say they still want the COVID-19 vaccine. Breaking that down along party lines, 20 percent of Democrats are still in the "haven't be vaccinated, but want to be" category, while just ten percent of Republicans give the same answer.

With Republicans twice as likely to be resistant to get vaccinated, and vaccine being distributed by population, it's not surprising that many states are seeing vaccine surpluses. In fact, all across the Southeast is a band of states where vaccination rates are low and likely to remain that way as the remaining Republican population shows little interest in being vaccinated. Georgia has shut down all mass vaccination sites, and Arkansas is just one of several states to suspend vaccine orders after being left with a surplus.

Rate of vaccination by state

There are certainly some surprises on this map, like South Dakota achieving an 80 percent vaccination rate … But then, maybe that's what happens when you're near the top of the charts in cases per population. However, in general, there's a remarkably close match between the rate of vaccination and the percentage of population on either side of the red/blue line. That's because Republican vaccine resistance has been remarkably consistent from the outset. Rather than declining as more information became available, that resistance has actually increased slightly over the last two months.

If you're wondering, four percent of Democrats are saying "no" to the vaccine and three percent still respond that they are "unsure." However, over time both those numbers have been steadily declining.


The situation in India continues to be nothing less than terrible. On Tuesday, India became only the second nation to record 20 million cases of COVID-19, joining the United States in this club no one wants to join. Indian scientists are pleading for the government to be more transparent with the data in order to best address the threat, and there are good reasons to believe the government is vastly undercounting both cases and deaths.

Over the last three days, the number of cases reported each day has dropped from over 400,000 to just over 350,000. That may seem like things are trending in the right direction, but just like in the United States, COVID-19 data tends to have a drop in reporting on Sunday and Monday. (The fact that daily reported deaths are down, despite the sharply increasing case count over the last two weeks, is a very good indicator that this data is incomplete.) It won't be until the final tally comes in from the next two days that it becomes clear whether or not India may have flattened what was a rocketing-upward curve.

However, there are more nations to add to the list of sites where COVID-19 is seeing a massive resurgence. Asian nations like Cambodia, which had done an amazing job of controlling the outbreak there to this point, are seeing thousands of new cases, many of them associated with variants first seen in India. A smaller—for now—spike is still growing in Laos. Thailand, which fought back a wave at the end of 2020, is having an even bigger outbreak now.

COVID-19 is not over. In the short term, what India needs is oxygen, ventilators, personal protective equipment, and medical personnel. Multiple countries, including the United States, are airlifting supplies into the nation, trying to head off the enormous disaster that could result from still-rising case counts and a medical system that's completely overwhelmed.

In the longer term, what India—and every developing nation—needs is to get the vaccine into the arms of their citizens. Which is why the U.S. needs to dispatch more of what's obviously going to be a vaccine surplus their way. And every other nation with vaccine to spare should do the same.

Pfizer-BioNTech Covid Vaccine

GOP Anti-Vaxxers Are Destroying America's Hope For Herd Immunity

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

If you've been holding out hope that the coronavirus pandemic would end when the United States reached herd immunity … I have some bad news for you. Thanks in large part to vaccine hesitancy and slowing rates of vaccination, scientists now say herd immunity is not attainable, and COVID-19 is likely to be a public health threat that we live with and try to manage for a generation or more.

And let's be clear: There's a ton of overlap between the "we don't need no stinkin' masks, we're waiting for herd immunity" crowd and the vaccine-rejecting crowd. They're certainly part of the same broad approach to the pandemic—total lack of personal responsibility in the guise of personal liberty—and the damage keeps accumulating.

Nearly half of Republicans still say they don't want to be vaccinated, while parts of their party—like the Nevada Republican Party—are leveraging vaccine opposition for partisan gain. Republican officials across the country have downplayed the threat of the virus and refused to embrace public health guidelines, leading to nine out of the ten states with the highest cases of COVID-19 by population being Republican-led, and Republican-controlled states also dominating the list of states with the lowest vaccination rates.

Anti-vaxxers continue to thrive on social media, often driven by profit motives. On top of all that, the U.S. continues to contend with serious inequities in vaccine accessibility, leading to a situation where, as ProPublica reported, "Counties with high levels of chronic illnesses or "co-morbidities" had, on average, immunized 57 percent of their seniors by April 25, compared to 65 percent of seniors in counties with the lowest co-morbidity risk."

Add those things together and you get a situation where vaccination can give many people a strong level of protection and drive down overall rates of new COVID-19 cases, but herd immunity as it has been talked about over the past year—as the great hope for a return to normal—is not happening. Even if there are high levels of vaccination in many parts of the U.S., the virus will be able to find its way in to the places where there are not. And while prior COVID-19 infection confers some degree of protection from reinfection there are reasons to believe vaccination is more protective, so the view that if you let enough people get sick, eventually you'll reach the gleaming horizon of herd immunity has significant problems.

"I think we're going to be looking over our shoulders—or at least public health officials and infectious disease epidemiologists are going to be looking over their shoulders going: 'All right, the variants out there—what are they doing? What are they capable of?" Columbia University epidemiologist Jeffrey Shaman said to The New York Times. "Maybe the general public can go back to not worrying about it so much, but we will have to."

The United States doesn't stand alone, either. The situation in India continues to be horrific, reminding us both of how bad the worst can be and that the U.S. cannot expect to be an island of safety in a world where the pandemic continues to rage.

A Doctor receives a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine at Accra's Ridge Hospital in Ghana.

How To Survive A Global Pandemic

Well before Joe Biden marked the end of his first hundred days as president, his administration doubled the goal of 100 million vaccinations he set at the beginning. His government's performance suggests that we can eventually temper the hesitancy among certain populations — notably white males who watch too much Fox News — on our way to herd immunity.

After the United States manages to inoculate the great majority of those who live here, however, we will still have to face a greater threat — and a lesson about life on this planet that we ought to have learned decades ago.

The rich nations, including ours, must vaccinate the poor nations, all of them, or we will never escape the shadow of the pandemic. This is an obvious moral imperative, since billions of lives are at stake. But if that doesn't work for you, try this: Every unvaccinated human being on Earth is a potential breeder of virus mutations that could evade current vaccines and decimate our population.

That's the merciless science of viruses — and yet, to date, we and our allies have done far too little to ensure that the miraculous vaccines will find every arm that requires one.

Biden seemed to acknowledge the necessity of a global vaccination campaign within weeks of taking office, when he promised to deliver $4 billion for Covax, a multilateral effort promoted by the World Health Organization to finance vaccination in poorer countries. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is trying to raise another $2 billion.

Unfortunately, those well-meaning pledges won't mean much in the developing world now, as a recent report from scientists at Duke University points out, because wealthy nations have cornered the vaccine market. With a population of just over a billion, those nations have acquired nearly 5 billion doses, locking up production capacity for months ahead.

By July 4, when the president hopes we can all enjoy barbecues with friends and family, the United States will have over 300 million extra doses on ice — enough to immunize the entire populations of many smaller countries that have almost none. Neither the United States nor its allies have announced any plan to donate the hundreds of millions of extra vaccines to the needier nations. Which means that another two years or more may pass before people in those countries can be vaccinated; many, many innocent people will die; and the danger of vaccine-proof mutant viruses will grow exponentially.

The intractable inequities are made worse by bad policies that have somehow survived the pandemic, including the insistence on protecting vaccine patents by the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union. Those powerful states stymied a petition to the World Trade Organization from nearly a hundred developing countries to set aside patent protections on vaccines during the pandemic. They asked for a temporary waiver, but in fact, it should be permanent.

And that is only the first step in recognition of our global mutuality. Despite the xenophobic barking that got so loud during the era of former President Trump, the truth is that none of us will be safe until all of us are safe — and that will remain true for our children and their children. The strutting nationalists who denounce "globalism" have no viable answers to the problems we confront, from pandemics to climate change; instead, they pretend those crises aren't real.

Such denialism remains the "nationalist" attitude toward the pandemic even now. After burying more than 570,000 of our fellow Americans, we know how that blind approach has worked out. Hostility, ignorance and selfishness equal death.

Whether we like it or not, we live on a globalizing world with billions of other people, and at the moment, we have nowhere else to go. After all this misery, we must grow up and act as if we understand that most basic fact — lifting up humanity together, the only way we will save ourselves.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com