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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Last week, the United States fell to last place in vaccination among G-7 nations. Until spring, the U.S. had been one of the leaders in vaccination rates, but as Democrats got vaccinated and vaccine hostility set in among 40 percent of Republicans, the increase in vaccinations in America slowed to a crawl. Even Japan, which had a vaccination rate of just 1 percent in May—and which has a high level of anti-vaccination sentiment going back decades—has moved ahead of the U.S. Despite hopes that the Delta wave might finally wake Republicans' willingness to engage in public health, the rate has barely moved.

As a direct result of that low vaccination rate, the delta wave has been higher and more prolonged in the United States than in most other nations. And when it comes to COVID-19 deaths, American isn't last. It's first. In fact, not only are people dying in the U.S. at a rate higher than in other wealthy nations, the number of deaths is exceeding all other G-7 nations combined.

As The Economist reports, in a pandemic of the unvaccinated, the low vaccination rate has made the United States an outlier among wealthy nations. Across the EU, the rate of excess deaths has dropped by 90 percent when compared to the peak of the pandemic. Britain, which has seen a persistent delta wave after "freedom day" ended most mask and social distancing requirements, is still down by 95 percent from its peak.

But the U.S. is down just 40 percent from the worst days of the midwinter peak. If anyone doesn't believe in American exceptionalism, they need to be corrected. Because Americans are exceptionally good at dying needlessly.

One of the things that makes The Economist's numbers particularly interesting is that they're not simply tallying the number of reported COVID-19 deaths each day. It's been clear almost from the beginning of the pandemic that such deaths were being underreported. States like Florida have gone to extraordinary lengths to revise their system of recording cause of death, making it difficult to know how accurate totals there may be. In several states, local coroners and medical examiners have admitted to leaving any mention of COVID-19 off of death certificates if it would "make the family uncomfortable." Considering the high overlap between those opposed to the vaccine and those downplaying the threat of the virus, this is a formula for missing many, or even most, deaths in some areas.

Instead, The Economist is using an excess deaths model that compares overall reported deaths to similar periods before the pandemic began. Using that model, they report that "America is suffering 2,800 pandemic deaths per day." Which is about 1,000 higher than the official tally. This does not make the comparison to other nations unfair as The Economist is using the same methodology for those countries as well.

With 692,969 reported deaths, U.S. losses in the current pandemic are now well ahead of most estimates concerning the 1918 flu pandemic. However, the excess death model, like earlier modeling from both Johns Hopkins and Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, suggests the real toll is much greater. Those measures place the total number of deaths resulting from the pandemic at between 820,000 and 910,000. Included in those numbers are some people who died from other causes due to the way COVID-19 patients were clogging the health care system. However, those deaths are also directly associated with the pandemic.

The result is that the United States doesn't just have more deaths overall than any other nation, it's continuing to generate new pandemic deaths at a rate that exceeds the total of all other G-7 nations. In fact, new deaths in the United States exceed all pandemic-related deaths in all other high income countries, including those not in the G-7.

The data from Civiqs continues to show 37 percent of Republicans saying they will not get a vaccine. That is a slight decline from the beginning of the delta wave, but not nearly enough to allow the U.S. to catch up to the vaccination rates in other nations. In addition, polling from YouGov shows that among those who voted for Trump, 71 percent "strongly disapprove" of President Joe Biden's move to mandate vaccination for government workers and those at large companies. In that same group, 40 percent say they "never" wear a face mask.

Not vaccinated. Won't wear a mask. That's exactly why the delta wave in the U.S. hasn't just been worse than in any other wealthy country, it's been worse than in all of them put together.

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