The United States is vaccinating 1.8 million people per day against the coronavirus. That sounds like a lot. That’s because it is. The United States has the fourth best vaccine distribution, with about 18 percent of its population having received the vaccine at the start of this week. That puts it behind only the United Kingdom (27 percent), the United Arab Emirates (56 percent) and Israel (83 percent).
That said, we could be getting even more vaccines into people’s arms if we made some policy changes. The most glaring one is that the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been approved for use in the United Kingdom, the European Union, India, Mexico and other countries, still is not available in America because it has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. AstraZeneca still is conducting a trial of its vaccine in the U.S., and recent reports suggest it won’t be ready here until at least April.
Of course, we want anything that will be injected in millions of people to be as safe as possible. It’s understandable that the FDA would want to leave no stone unturned, to make sure it has the best data available before approving a vaccine.
At the same time, delaying the rollout of a vaccine carries its own risks. As recently as late January, about 1,100 Americans were dying every day from the coronavirus. Thankfully, the number of new COVID cases has declined since then as more people are getting vaccinated. It’s worth remembering that even the people who never get the virus are having their lives disrupted because of it.
My daughter turned 1 year old this month, and under normal circumstances we would have thrown a party by inviting friends to our house, but my wife and I did not think that was wise given the ongoing presence of the pandemic. And we aren’t even the worst case. I think about the residents of nursing homes who have to converse with their loved ones through a window to avoid contracting the virus.
The sooner the FDA approves the AstraZeneca vaccine (and others like it), the sooner that terribly high death count will fall and the sooner we can return to a more normal life.
I wish that instead of banning the AstraZeneca vaccine outright, the FDA allowed it to be sold in the U.S. while informing customers of its risk. Let them know it has been approved in the U.K. but has not been thoroughly reviewed by American officials. Maybe some people will not want to take that risk, but many others would, so let them do it.