It took Moderna 48 hours to produce a vaccination.  It took 48 years to accomplish that feat. 

As you read this account, did you or your children elect to forgo vaccinations for Polio, Tetanus, Influenza, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A, Rubella, Measles, Whooping Cough, Streptococcus vaccine, Mumps, Chickenpox, and Diphtheria?  What about the pain inflicted from shingles, did you get your Shingrix shot?

Update June 16, 2021.  Pfizer had evidence the mRNA vaccine could stop the virus. The vaccine is composed of a lipid nanoparticle, a sphere of fat molecules encapsulating a strand of messenger RNA, which instructs human cells to make proteins that trigger antibodies and prime the immune system against future viral invasions.  But it would do little good unless Pfizer could rapidly take the new nanoparticle technology from lab to mass production — a feat never before accomplished — making immunizations available in America and around the world.  The company and its vaccine partner BioNTech would ultimately master the job of churning out large batches of mRNA vaccine, making it the clearest winner among drug companies to emerge from the pandemic. The company is producing vaccines in greater quantities than any other company and has secured an advantage in the quest to use next-generation mRNA technology for treatments of other diseases.  The company says it expects to make enough for 3 billion shots in 2021, twice as much as initial projections and enough of the two-dose immunization for 1.5 billion people. It has said it will make $26 billion in vaccine sales in 2021, which would make it the biggest-selling medicine ever.

Updated June 27, 2021: Paddy Doherty, of County Donegal, Ireland, recently became the fifth person in the world to have cells deep inside his body altered by the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9.  Two researchers behind CRISPR won the Nobel Prize last year, including American scientist Jennifer Doudna, and it has already been used to edit blood cells removed from the body and infused back in, as well as genes in the eye.  But the trial Doherty participated in was the first time anyone’s whole body has been infused with the CRISPR tool.  It seems to have worked as planned.  In Doherty and five others with the same condition, the one-time treatment appears to have turned off a gene that was causing a fatal build-up of protein in their tissues. The three who got the lowest dose saw more than a 50% decline in their blood levels of the protein, according to a presentation Saturday morning and a publication in The New England Journal of Medicine.  Doherty and two others who got a three-times higher dose, saw an 87% reduction. He thinks he was the one in the group identified as having a 96% reduction.  But if such CRISPR gene-editing continues to show as much promise, the results could herald a new era for transthyretin amyloidosis and dozens of other genetic conditions, including hemophilia, sickle cell disease and a more common trigger for heart failure.  CRIPSR/Cas9 (which stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats and CRISPR-associated endonuclease-9) has mostly been used as a research tool since its 2012 discovery.  Patrick Doherty had always been very active. He trekked the Himalayas and hiked trails in Spain.  The breathlessness on a hillside walk last fall wasn’t Doherty’s first sign of trouble, but it was the one that finally got him to go to the doctor.  Doherty, 65, a mechanical engineer, lost his father at age 67, and two uncles died young, too.  After months of appointments and scans, Doherty ended up with a devastating diagnosis: an inherited form of a disease called transthyretin amyloidosis with polyneuropathy. It meant clumps of proteins were slowly clogging up his heart and nerves, and after years of pain and progressive heart failure, would kill him.  So Doherty was thrilled when he found out that doctors were testing a new way to try to treat amyloidosis.

Updated July 8. 2021: New study on delta variants reveals the importance of receiving both vaccine shots, highlights challenges posed by mutations. New laboratory research on the swiftly spreading delta variant of the coronavirus is highlighting the threats posed by viral mutations, adding urgency to calls to accelerate vaccination efforts across the planet. A peer-reviewed report from scientists in France, published Thursday in the journal Nature, found that the delta variant has mutations that allow it to evade some of the neutralizing antibodies produced by vaccines or by a natural infection. A single shot of a two-dose vaccine “barely” offers any protection. But the experiments found that fully vaccinated people — with the recommended regimen of two shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccine — should retain significant protection against the delta variant. That echoes another report authored by a collaboration of scientists in the United States and published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Understanding the science behind the rapid production of the COVID-19 vaccinations is both fascinating and critically important to understand.  Recognizing the role of women in facilitating this scientific breakthrough is vital.  The average population is ill-informed about the steps leading up to the vaccination development process.  Some are ignorantly afraid, consumed with conspiracy theories, religious bias, political bipartisanship, and a strong opinion that the vaccination was produced too quickly.  Their invalid conclusion, therefore, that it is unsafe, ineffective, especially by not understanding that development took decades.  Half the voters who supported Trump in the last U.S. elections refuse to get vaccinated, a demographic of less-educated whites.  Many are consumed by conspiracy theories that the vaccination will result in a chip being inserted in your body so that Bill Gates will track you or that the devil will reside within your DNA.

In a New York Times article, they discuss how white Evangelical’s vaccine refusal could prolong the pandemic, impacting the need for herd immunity where at least seventy percent of the population is vaccinated.  Their objections included: “She believed it contained aborted cell tissue.”  A preacher “received a divine message that God was the ultimate healer and deliverer: The vaccine is not the savior.” Another: “she did not need the vaccine because God designed the body to heal itself if given the right nutrients.”  There are about 41 million white evangelical adults in the U.S.  According to the Pew Research Center, about 45% said in late February that they would not get vaccinated against COVID-19, making them among the least likely demographic groups to do so.  Some high-profile conservative pastors and institutional leaders have endorsed the vaccines.  Franklin Graham told his 9.6 million Facebook followers that Jesus would advocate for vaccination.  Pastor Robert Jeffress commended it from an anti-abortion perspective on Fox News. “We talk about life inside the womb is a gift from God.  Well, life outside the womb is a gift from God, too.” Southern Baptist Convention, J.D. Greear, president, tweeted a photo of himself receiving a vaccination.  Across white evangelical America, reasons not to get vaccinated have spread as quickly as the virus that public health officials hope to overcome through herd immunity.

By the end of March 2021, more than 551,000 Americans died of COVID-19.  Within my one immediate family, seven got infected from this virus, with one dying.  On March 31, 2021, 2.4 million Americans are getting vaccinated daily, yet cases and deaths are trending up again. 

On January 11, 2020, Chinese researchers published the genetic sequence of the virus. Moderna finalized the mRNA vaccine in about 48 hours.  The reality is that the science of genetic engineering started in 1972.  It is what preceded this January 2020 date that is critical in understanding how the vaccine could be developed quickly.  The vaccination topic piqued my curiosity.  What role did science and technology play in bringing the vaccine to market in under one year?  That is the subject of three books that I read recently, identified below.

On March 22, 2021, while watching The Late Show on CBS with Stephen Colbert (7 minutes 15 seconds) interviewing Walter Isaacson to discuss his newly published book The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race, I decided that I needed to know more.    It is a phenomenal work, a great read, and I recommend everyone who has the slightest interest in this topic to read Isaacson’s book.  Isaacson’s book was published on March 9, 2021.  During this interview, Walter describes Jennifer’s work with CRISPR and gene editing.  With my understanding that Pfizer and Moderna used this technology to develop their vaccines to fight COVID-19, I was interested in learning more.

“Look at the halo of letters—GCACGUAGUGU—on the cover of this book. It is a snippet of the RNA that creates the part of the spike protein that binds to human cells, and these letters became part of the code used in the new vaccines.”

After additional research, I requested from the library A Crack In Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution by Jennifer A Doudna and Samuel H Sternberg, published August 21, 2018.

To put it mildly, I was so impressed with Jennifer and Samuel’s work that I purchased the book for my 14-year-old granddaughters.  I encouraged them to read the book and added the following comments to the inside cover of their book.

If you read this book, I believe that you will learn the following:

  • Jennifer read a chemistry book at age 12 that established an ambition to study for an undergraduate degree, Masters, and Doctorate that ultimately led to a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020.  (Update: the book Jennifer read was The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA, by James D. Watson.  See additional detail below).
  • Jennifer turned 57 on February 19, 2021.  She amassed numerous awards for her life work.
  • Jennifer is unquestionably an intellectual with deep thought, expressing cogent and rational arguments.
  • Jennifer did not do it on her own.  She stood on the shoulders of many people globally, clearly understanding the benefit of collaboration.  She published her research frequently.
  • The science was applied to horticulture, animals, fish, insects, bacteria, and eventually humans.
  • Jennifer’s book got published before the COVID virus, but her work led to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations that protect us today.
  • Jennifer attracted $500,000 investments for her team to carry out research.
  • There are many scientific and biological terms that you are unlikely to understand; I do not.  Read past them, but do not let that stop you from getting significant value from reading this book and understanding her process—words including Gene Editing, DNA, RNA, CRISPER, Cas9, GMO, and more.
  • The further you read, the more exciting and educational the book becomes.
  • One concern is if we use this technology to influence the characteristics of newborn babies, eugenics for short.  Jennifer screams aloud that human selection is unacceptable.
  • The bottom line: Reading the book will provide a way to universally understand science and government regulations controlling or limiting innovative thinking. An open mind helps.
  • As you read this book, could you be an author telling such a compelling story? (One twin has ambitions of becoming an author).
  • Remember, you can ask questions.  Try your dad, mom, or me—a pleasure to help.
  • Use Google to search “YouTube CRISPER” and other technology to learn more.

My motivation was two-fold in providing this encouragement.  When I grew up, I was not encouraged to study in any field other than engineering.  I was tested in high school and recommended by an industrial psychologist to follow a career in accounting.  While in engineering school, we had one female scholar in a class of over one hundred students.  Somehow, the thinking back in my day was, women do not have a place in science and technology.  A myth I wanted to be dispelled for my granddaughters.

After reading Jennifer’s book, I have dived into Walter Isaacson’s book.  I was blown away by his research.  He interviewed everyone that influenced Jennifer’s career, laboratory students appointed by her, competitors, scientific publishers, and business partners.  The book consists of noticeably short chapters that hold your interest with page-turning excitement—58 chapters in 476 pages, or 8.5 pages per chapter, on average.  The detail is reverting and exciting in the extreme.  Consider intellectual property patent intrigue.  Can you imagine a patent lawsuit being retried multiple times over eight years?  Jealousy and envy are terrible diseases in a competitive field, resulting in backstabbing.  Sadly, competitive relationships can become highly toxic, benefitting no one and creating a bitter relationship between former colleagues.  What about using this technology for terrorism?  What did the U.S. government invest in protecting or reversing nefarious use?  What position did religious leaders take?  How would or did politicians react to this technology?  How did the global community respond, vilify, or support?  What happens when a potential solution results in death?  What if international companies promote gene editing for newborn babies with desired characteristics?  What if the protagonist ends up being found guilty in a court of law with a heavy fine and jail time?

My mom died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2019.  Might it be possible to convert the APOE4 gene into a benign version?  The Alzheimer’s Association projects that by 2050 people 65 and older with Alzheimer’s will reach 12.7 million. The most significant protection against a person or laboratory using the technology to pursue eugenics, is lawsuits.

With Walter’s book, you do not require a doctorate or even an undergraduate degree in chemistry or biology.  Everything is explained in simple terms. It helps develop one’s understanding of the science involved with these breakthrough vaccinations.

Walter interviewed many collaborators, competitors, partners, and Jennifer’s team members.  Walter references 365 people in his book.  He provides cameos of multiple people, making the biographical story more human and exciting.  The text reads like a murder mystery, not that anyone got murdered, but some of the intrigues in the competitive laboratories are both exciting and entirely unbelievable.  Who stole ideas from whom?  Why the lies?  Could it be the result of competitiveness, who was the first to make a breakthrough scientific discovery? As with any scientific or technological endeavor, one must contend with charlatans out for publicity and fame.  The repercussions can be devastating, especially for the naïve coconspirators.  

The book challenges one on many moral issues.  If a deaf couple has a baby, it will likely be born deaf.  Should the medical profession take action to ensure the child is not deaf?  If technology allows the embryo to be altered so that the child will be a regular hearing child, is that morally acceptable?  Or what if you are a black couple wanting a light-skinned child?  Could Prince Harry and Megan Markle have made use of this process with Archie?  (Recall the troubling comments made during the Oprah Winfrey interview about Royal’s concern about the couple having a dark-skinned baby.  Racism anyone?).  Or short parents wanting to give birth to a tall child?  Should we morally establish a goal of inheritable gene edits?  Eradicate sickle cell disease?

I know that I have never been involved in this industry, and I am surprised when I read about the events that have taken place over the decades, how uninformed I am. 

If my granddaughters read Jennifer’s book, I plan to purchase Walter’s book for them to read.

Walter’s book is an essential read to understand what may be possible regarding baby selection in terms of desirable traits.  We cannot stop science or the inevitable outcome of what parents may choose within the characteristics and health of their offspring.  What if society becomes a robotic clone of each other? 

Isaacson’s book is an essential read.  I would challenge that the title Code Breaker is misleading.  The book challenges one to understand developments that have taken place in recent years in terms of genetics and the potential for how it could be employed in the future. What if this technology was only affordable by the ultra-wealthy?

I was so enamored with Isaacson’s book that I will reread it.  It is worth my time to gain even more knowledge after my initial read.  Think about the effort that went into multiple laboratories to develop a COVID-19 test.  None of the labs wanted the tests to be a moneymaking venture, only a way to isolate patients with the virus.

The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA, by James D. Watson.  By identifying DNA structure, the molecule of life, Francis Crick and James Watson revolutionized biochemistry and won a Nobel Prize.  At the time, Watson was only twenty-four, a young scientist hungry to make his mark.  The book was first published in 1968 and republished on August 16, 2011.  I consider myself a detailed person.  With my engineering and computer background, I am used to reading technical information.  I found, in an amusing way, that Watson wrote like a raconteur.  Do I need to know which pub Watson had dinner in London and what he ate?  Watson uses this tactic to explain the process they went through on their path to their breakthrough discoveries.  I can only imagine that Watson kept a diary of what he did daily to document all this detail.  That, or he must have a phenomenal memory.  The book consists of noticeably short chapters, a few pages each, resulting in an easy and quick read.

As a reminder, Jennifer Doudna’s reading this book as a child set her career choice.  I appreciate the coincidence that the last three letters of her last name are “DNA.”

James D. Watson was born in Chicago on April 6, 1928. After graduation from the University of Chicago, he worked in genetics at Indiana University, receiving his Ph.D. in 1950.  He spent a year at the University of Copenhagen, followed by two years at the Cavendish Laboratory of Cambridge University, England.  There he met Francis Crick, and the collaboration resulted in their 1953 proposal of a structure for DNA.  After two years at Cal Tech, he joined the Harvard faculty, where he remained a biochemistry and molecular biology professor until 1976. In 1962, together with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, Dr. Watson was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.  It has been recognized that Watson and his colleagues did not correctly attribute colleague Rosalind Franklin for her contributions to the discovery of the double helix structure.

In Watson’s book, he is critical of Rosalind or Rose as she was known.  In a prologue written for the re-release, he apologized for his unkind words and recognized her contribution.

My message to my granddaughters.  Reading Watson’s book will teach you that scientific breakthroughs do not happen in a blink of an eye.  It is the result of years of dedication, disappointments, persistence, and ultimately a positive outcome.  It is not necessarily a guaranteed result.

To add to our interest, we watched the 1997 movie Gattaca.  DNA sequencing is a laboratory technique used to determine the exact sequence of bases (A, C, G, and T) in a DNA molecule.  Gattaca was made up of those four letters. “A genetically inferior man assumes the identity of a superior one to pursue his lifelong dream of space travel.” Well, it is science fiction but provides food for thought of the possibilities. 

The bottom line: I am disappointed at the amount of disinformation and ignorant comments I have read about these life-saving vaccinations.  Get a life.  Get vaccinated.

Update April 10, 2021. USA COVID-19 cases, 31,084,962, deaths 561,074.  Fully vaccinated 68,202,458, (20.5%) one-shot 114,436,039 (34.5%).  Currently, the concern is for a potential fourth wave, especially among younger adults.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. 3.1 million per day

Update April 17, 2021. USA COVID-19 cases, 31,574,340, deaths 565,260.  Fully vaccinated 80,609,818, (24.3%) one-shot 127,743,096 (38.5%).  Currently, the concern is for a potential fourth wave, especially among younger adults.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. 3.9 million per day.

Update April 24, 2021.  USA. COVID-19 cases, 31,730,950, deaths 567,352.  Fully vaccinated 91,175,995 (27.5%) one-shot 137,234,889 (41.3%).  Currently, the concern is a reluctance for people to get vaccinated.  Some states have more vaccinations available than people willing to get vaccinated.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. 2.28 million per day.

Update May 1, 2021.  USA. COVID-19 cases, 32,091,429, deaths 572,190.  Fully vaccinated 101,407,318 (30.5%) one-shot 144,894,586 (43.6%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 51,134,807 Moderna 42,065,146 J&J 8,162,494.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. 2.36 million per day.  Concerns that some people after receiving the first dose of Pfizer or Moderna are not returning for their second dose.

Update May 8, 2021.  USA. COVID-19 cases, 32,403,159, deaths 577,041.  Fully vaccinated 110,874,920 (33.4%) one-shot 150,416,559 (45.3%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 56,659,985 Moderna 45,501,811 J&J 8,665,290.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. 1.75 million per day.  The best news is that the rates of COVID infections in the US are dropping by 14% daily cases for a positivity rate of 3.9%.  Our granddaughters, over the age of 12 will be vaccinated next week getting their first Pfizer dose, the only vaccination authorized for them currently.

Update May 15, 2021.  USA. COVID-19 cases, 32,681,787, deaths 581,573.  Fully vaccinated 120,258,637 (36.2%) one-dose 155,251,852 (46.8%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 62,113,204 Moderna 48,745,748 J&J 9,348,976.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. 1.82 million per day.  Rates of COVID infections in the US are dropping by 20.6% daily cases for a positivity rate of 3.4%.  Our granddaughters, over the age of 12 received their first shot of Pfizer vaccination.

Update May 22, 2021.  USA. COVID-19 cases, 32,885,010, deaths 584,975.  Fully vaccinated 127,778,250 (38.5%) one-dose 161,278,336 (48.6%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 66,045,495 Moderna 51,727,326 J&J 9,951,785.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. 1.76 million per day.  Rates of COVID infections in the US are dropping by 20.4% daily cases for a positivity rate of 4.7%.  Now states are bribing their citizens to get vaccinated.  Ohio offering a $1 million lottery prize, New Jersey, Maryland, and Connecticut a “shot and free beer,” vaccinations in Wisconsin at a pub for a day.  New York offers a vax and scratch lottery worth $5 million, Maryland offers $2 million and West Virginia offering saving bonds.  Krispy Kreme a free doughnut, some dispensaries—free marijuana.  Is this all to reward irresponsible behavior? Democrat Nancy Pelosi instructed all members of the House of Representatives to wear masks because Republicans refuse to get vaccinated or admit they have been vaccinated.  Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced a “$2 million Vax Cash promotion”. Every Marylander 18 and over who gets vaccinated will be entered into a daily drawing to win $40,000 from the Maryland State Lottery — culminating in a $400,000 drawing on July 4.  Meanwhile, the University of Virginia and Indiana University are joining a growing list of universities requiring vaccinations.  At least 389 colleges (universities) across that country have required vaccinations for at least some students or faculty, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.  For the first time since March 2020, the 7-day average for deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. has fallen below 500, White House coronavirus response senior adviser Andy Slavitt tweeted Friday. Dr. Scott Gottlieb’s comments Friday came as the country’s seven-day average of daily new coronavirus infections fell below 30,000 for the first time in almost a year; in late March, that figure was around 66,000.

Update May 29, 2021.  USA. COVID-19 cases, 33,041,551, deaths 590,212.  Fully vaccinated 133,532,544 (40.2%) one-dose 166,388,129 (50.1%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 68,735,221 Moderna 54,244,825 J&J 10,495,883.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. 1.38 million per day.  Rates of COVID infections in the US are dropping by 22.4% daily cases for a positivity rate of 2.5%.  Abbey Bugenske (22) who lives in Cincinnati is the first winner of $1 million Vax-a-Million lottery in Ohio’s bid to encourage more people to get vaccinated.  Abbey was one of 2.76 million Ohioans who entered the drawing.  14-year-old Joseph Costello of Englewood, won a four-year scholarship to any Ohio college/university he chooses as part of the lottery.  California on Thursday became the latest state to announce huge cash prizes to incentivize vaccination against the coronavirus, offering $116.5 million in giveaways — many smaller payments as well as a final drawing for 10 winners of $1.5 million each.  California will also give out 2 million $50 “incentive cards” starting Thursday for as long as supplies last, officials said.  Anyone who receives their full vaccine regimen — two shots if applicable — can get a card.

Update June 5, 2021.  USA. COVID-19 cases, 33,148,701, deaths 593,377.  Fully vaccinated 137,455,367 (41.4%) one-dose 169,735,441 (51.1%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 70,597,177 Moderna 55,914,615 J&J 10,884,243.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. 1.01 million per day.  Rates of COVID infections in the US are dropping by 32.8% daily cases for a positivity rate of 3%.  The country’s declining Covid-19 case rates present an unrealistically optimistic perspective for half of the nation — the half that is still not vaccinated.  The adjusted rates in several states show the pandemic is spreading as fast among the unvaccinated as it did during the winter surge.  For events like Covid-19 infection, rates are usually calculated by dividing the number of cases by the number of people in the population. For example, if there are 12 cases among a population of 100 people, the rate would be 12 people per 100. The Washington Post reduced the denominator to exclude most vaccinated people. So if 20 people got vaccinated, that would mean there were 12 cases out of the remaining 80 unvaccinated people, for an adjusted rate of 15 cases per 100 people.  Data shows vaccines are about 90 percent effective in preventing cases among people who have received the shot.  Cases among vaccinated people are called breakthrough cases.  To be conservative, The Washington Post estimated that up to 15 percent of the vaccinated population could still be infected.  So, in the example above, instead of removing all 20 vaccinated people, The Post removed 17.  That would leave 12 cases among 83 people, for an adjusted rate of 14.5 cases per 100 people.  But adjustments for vaccinations show the rate among susceptible, unvaccinated people is 73 percent higher than the standard figures being publicized.  The adjusted rates in several states show the pandemic is spreading as fast among the unvaccinated as it did during the winter surge. Maine, Colorado, Rhode Island, and Washington state all have Covid-19 case spikes among the unvaccinated, with adjusted rates about double the adjusted national rate.

Update June 12, 2021.  USA. COVID-19 cases, 33,259,537, deaths 596,572.  Fully vaccinated 142,095,530 (42.8%) one-dose 172,758,350 (52.0%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 73,593,112 Moderna 57,194,116 J&J 11,246,809.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. 1.09 million per day.  Rates of COVID infections in the US are dropping by 11% daily cases for a positivity rate of 1.8%.  The latest CDC data shows that the gap between vaccination rates in Republican controlled states and Democrat controlled states is vast, and it’s only getting wider. Right now, the 10 Republican states that have fully vaccinated the smallest share of their residents are Mississippi (28 percent), Alabama (30 percent), Arkansas (32 percent), Louisiana (32 percent), Wyoming (33 percent), Tennessee (33 percent), Utah (34 percent), Idaho (34 percent), Georgia (34 percent) and Oklahoma (35 percent).  Meanwhile, the 10 Democrat states that have fully vaccinated the largest share of their residents are Vermont (60 percent), Massachusetts (57 percent), Maine (57 percent), Connecticut (56 percent), Rhode Island (54 percent), New Hampshire (53 percent), New Jersey (51 percent), Maryland (51 percent), Washington (49 percent) and New Mexico (49 percent).  The vast majority of the 100 U.S. counties with today’s highest per capita case counts (COVID infections) are in Republican conservative areas.  According to the most recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll, more than three-quarters of Democrats (76 percent) say they’ve already been vaccinated, while less than half of Republicans (49 percent) say the same.  A full 28 percent of Republicans say they will “never” get vaccinated.  The Biden administration is buying 500 million doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine to donate to the world as the United States dramatically increases its efforts to help vaccinate more of the global population.  The first 200 million doses will be distributed this year, with the subsequent 300 million shared in the first half of next year. The doses will be distributed by Covax, the World Health Organization-backed initiative to share doses around the globe, and they will be targeted at low- and middle-income countries.  Pfizer is selling the doses to the United States at a “not-for-profit” price.

Update June 19, 2021.  USA. COVID-19 cases, 33,341,986, deaths 598,713.  Fully vaccinated 148,459,003 (44.7%) one-dose 176,290,249 (53.1%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 77,705,677 Moderna 58,962,325 J&J 11,725,891.  Unknown 2-dose 65,110.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. 1.36 million per day.  Republican Gov. Phil Scott announced Vermont had become the first state to vaccinate 80 percent of those eligible with at least one dose. Vermont has given out 131,473 doses per 100,000 population. By contrast, in Mississippi only 35 percent of the overall population has received at least one dose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the Mississippi vaccination rate at less than half that of Vermont, or 61,278 administered per 100,000.  Where vaccine coverage is strong, the pandemic is receding.  The new delta variant is significantly more contagious and may lead to more severe disease than the earlier variants.  The worry is that those who are hesitating to get vaccinated now will be sickened in the fall.  The announcement that a new two-dose vaccine in the United States, developed by Novavax, is 90 percent effective in a large-scale clinical trial is a reason for hope. 

Update June 26, 2021.  USA. COVID-19 cases, 33,425,231, deaths 600,859.  Fully vaccinated 151,615,554 (45.7%) one-dose 178,491,147 (53.8%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 79,671,066 Moderna 59,859,140 J&J 12,017,294.  Unknown 2-dose 68,054.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. 735,800 per day.  Nearly all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. now are in people who were not vaccinated, a staggering demonstration of how effective the shots have been and an indication that deaths per day — now down to under 300 — could be practically zero if everyone eligible got the vaccine.  Vaccination rates vary enormously across states: Some states have given at least one dose to two-thirds of the people, while others have given it to slightly more than one-third.  In Wisconsin 48% vaccinated.

Update July 3, 2021.  USA. COVID-19 cases, 33,514,681, deaths 602,731.  Fully vaccinated 156,255,896 (47.1%) one-dose 181,650,678 (54.7%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 82,684,230 Moderna 61,148,426 J&J 12,352,133.  Unknown 2-dose 71,107.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. 1.09 million per day, a 52% increase over the week before.  CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a Thursday White House briefing that preliminary data reviewed by her agency suggests 99.5% of the people who died from Covid-19 over the past six months were unvaccinated, a stunning statistic in support of her assertion that nearly every virus-linked death is now preventable.  Several states and the District of Columbia have reached the 70 percent target, and more should follow soon.  Many states, particularly in the South and Midwest, are still far from reaching the threshold.  Infections and hospitalizations have been rising in many places with low vaccination rates.  Local officials are sounding the alarm over an increase in Covid-19 infections just as the nation prepares to celebrate a Fourth of July holiday that many hoped would mark the start of the resumption of normal life.  With July 4th holiday coming up and eventually kids going back to school, we have to be concerned that this would be a trend that could continue.  And if it does, it would appear that we may be in the beginning of the third surge of Covid-19 here in the state of Arkansas,” he said.  More than 90% of active virus cases are people who have not been vaccinated, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during the briefing.

Update July 10, 2021.  USA. COVID-19 cases, 33,631,656, deaths 604,251.  Fully vaccinated 158,629,431 (47.8%) one-dose 183,542,871 (55.3%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 84,127,283 Moderna 61,840,480 J&J 12,587,850.  Unknown 2-dose 73,818.  National vaccination rates have slowed considerably from their mid-April peak of 3.3 million doses administered daily, on average.  In the last week, an average of 599,100 doses per day was administered, a 45% decrease over the week before. The vaccination campaign has slowed, and the delta variant is spreading rapidly.  New infections, which had started to plateau about a month ago, are going up slightly nationally.  Surges are likely driven by pockets of dangerously low vaccination rates.  The number of people catching the virus has risen in more than half of the states over the past two weeks. And 18 states have greater numbers of new infections now compared with four weeks ago, including Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, and Oklahoma, where new daily cases have doubled. In the last week, an average of 593,800 doses per day was administered, a 47% decrease over the week before.

Update July 17, 2021.  USA. COVID-19 cases, 33,836,677, deaths 606,190.  Fully vaccinated 160,686,378 (48.4%) one-dose 185,424,899 (55.9%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 85,373,703 Moderna 62,435,576 J&J 12,799,762.  Unknown 2-dose 77,337.  A doubling of COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks suggests the United States has entered a fourth wave of the pandemic.  Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the seven-day average of coronavirus infections soared nearly 70 percent in just one week, to about 26,300 cases a day. The seven-day average for hospitalizations has increased, too, climbing about 36 percent from the previous seven-day period, she said.  Florida emerged as a national hot spot, accounting for 1 in 5 cases in the past week. Four states were responsible for more than 40 percent of cases in the past week, health officials said. And 10 percent of counties have moved into “high transmission risk.”  More than 97 percent of hospitalizations are among those who are unvaccinated, Walensky said, and almost all covid-19 deaths — which climbed 26 percent in the past week — are among people who have not received a shot.  The delta variant has become the dominant strain worldwide and is responsible for the majority of U.S. cases, said Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Update July 24, 2021.  USA. COVID-19 cases, 34,312,832, deaths 608,113.  Fully vaccinated 162,435,276 (48.9%) one-dose 187,579,557 (56.5%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 86,495,061 Moderna 62,870,544 J&J 12,987,754.  Unknown 2-dose 81,917.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 0.50 million per day, down from a peak of 3.3 million doses administered per day in April.   Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a stark warning Thursday about the spread of the delta strain of COVID-19, saying the variant is one of the “most infectious respiratory viruses” scientists know of.  People infected with the variant appear to carry a viral load that is more than 1,000 times that of those infected with earlier forms of the virus, allowing the virus to spread rapidly among unvaccinated people, scientists have found.  The dire message comes amid urgency from public health officials that Americans get vaccinated.  The daily average of confirmed coronavirus cases has roughly quadrupled during July, from about 13,000 per day at the start of the month to 43,243 now.  The CDC said earlier this week that cases of the delta strain now make up about 83% of new infections in the U.S., and a majority of deaths from the disease are among unvaccinated people.  The strain is much more transmissible than the alpha strain, or the initial version of COVID-19, and has led to surging case numbers in every state in the nation.  The number of new cases has risen almost 250% since the beginning of July, and states with low vaccination rates, including Florida, Texas, and Missouri, are experiencing some of the worst outbreaks three states with lower vaccination rates accounted for 40 percent of all cases nationwide.  Coronavirus-related hospitalizations in Alabama have more than doubled this month, with 213 patients in intensive care units, up from 79 on July 1.