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With Only 3% Vaccinated Globally, COVID-19 Threat Remains High

U.S. progress with COVID-19 control is inseparable from global progress, states Project HOPE’s Chief Health Officer Dr. Tom Kenyon

Bethesda, MD (April 6, 2021) — In response to rising coronavirus infection rates across numerous global communities, including in the United States, Dr. Tom Kenyon, chief health officer at Project HOPE and 21-year veteran of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), issued a cautionary statement:

“The U.S. is making strong progress with vaccinating the public against COVID-19 and we’re seeing evidence that it is working, such as in the nursing home setting where over 80 percent of residents are now vaccinated and the mortality between late December 2020 and early March 2021 declined by 91 percent. We can finally gather safely with other vaccinated family members, friends and loved ones — and that is wonderful news to many. Yet, with vaccination coverage in the U.S. at 40 percent, we still have a way to go to reach some level of herd immunity.

“We should not let ourselves be misled by this early domestic progress when the majority of Americans remain unvaccinated — and when only 3 percent of the global population has been fully vaccinated. To date, 56 percent of doses have been administered in high-income countries accounting for 16 percent of the global population. At the current rate, it is likely that only 10 percent of people in the majority of poor countries will be vaccinated in the next year. The global vaccine inequity needs to be addressed because it is the right thing to do from a humanitarian standpoint, but also to prevent the global proliferation of other variants that threaten the usefulness of current diagnostic tests, therapies and vaccines.

“This should remind everyone: To get back to normal, we still need to remain in a pandemic emergency-mode for the most part. It is more important now than ever to get vaccinated, wear masks when around the unvaccinated, socially distance ourselves from others, and practice good hygiene. One thing is clear: This pandemic is far from over. Crushing waves of new cases are on the horizon if we behave recklessly, such as the recent lifting of mandatory mask mandates by some governors and the large public gatherings we witnessed over spring break. The facts are clear — recurrent spikes in cases have always followed the premature abandonment of public health precautions. Hospital beds are again filling to capacity, which is why health experts are begging U.S. residents to wear masks and socially distance from others until most people are vaccinated.

“The U.S. is very short-sighted if we think that vaccinating only Americans is going to be sufficient. COVID-19 is a very dangerous disease spread through respiratory droplets and cannot be controlled locally if it remains unchecked globally. It’s dangerous for any country or community to behave as though it’s in the clear if the science, numbers and facts say the opposite. It is not only our human imperative to make vaccines accessible to all countries faster and in sufficient quantities, but also our only viable way out of this global health crisis.”

About Project HOPE:
Project HOPE is a global health and humanitarian relief organization that is committed to placing power in the hands of local health care workers to save lives across the globe. Read more at ProjectHOPE.org.

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