U.S. leads in rolling out COVID-19 vaccine with 1 in 20 fully protected

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The U.S. is a global leader in rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine, with 1 in 20 Americans fully protected, but its record on controlling the virus is mixed compared to global powers and Western peers.

Disease-trackers have recorded more than 28 million infections in the U.S., placing it far above the 11 million recorded in India, roughly 10 million in Brazil and 4 million apiece in the United Kingdom and Russia, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. on Monday surpassed a half-million deaths from COVID-19. This is roughly double the toll in Brazil, which has the second-highest death count. Mexico is third at 180,000 deaths. India is fourth at 156,000 deaths and the U.K. is fifth at 121,000 deaths.

While case and death counts have been an embarrassment for the U.S., its population is higher than most. China and India are notable exceptions, with Beijing claiming its draconian lockdowns largely stamped out the virus, while India likely benefited from a confluence of factors.

“It is unclear what is responsible for the trajectory of the pandemic in India. It may have to do with a combination of factors, including the younger average age of the population, higher levels of population immunity that may have been achieved through natural infection, compliance with face-covering guidance and climactic features that blunt transmission,” said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

It is unclear if other countries were as diligent or transparent as the U.S. in documenting their cases and fatalities.

Former President Donald Trump often complained that the U.S. was a victim of its success in testing for the disease, saying close tabulation of mild, asymptomatic cases resulted in an unflattering count.

Still, the crisis pushed hospitals to the max at times. And detecting wide swaths of cases drove down the case-fatality rate, which is defined as the share of people who test positive and then die.

The U.S. case-fatality rate is at 1.8%, putting the nation in good stead compared with large European countries such as Germany and France, at 2.8% and 2.3%, respectively, according to Johns Hopkins data.

However, the U.S. has lost more people per share of the population, at 152 per 100,000 compared to 82 in Germany and 126 in France.

The U.K., which struggled from the start and is battling a fast-moving mutation of the virus, fares worse than the U.S. in terms of people dying from COVID-19, with a 2.9% case-fatality rate and mortality of 181 people per 100,000.

The British have delivered 27 doses of the vaccine per 100 people, however, making it a standout after it moved swiftly to approve vaccines and buy doses.

Similarly, the U.S. invested early in the development and domestic manufacturing of vaccines through Mr. Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed.”

The U.S. has administered 19 doses per 100 people, compared to about 6 per 100 in the European Union, according to OurWorldinData.org.

American vaccinators have given far more shots than any other nation, with 66 million doses delivered compared to 51 million in all of Europe and 40 million in China.

The progress comes after months of struggling to contain hospitalizations and deaths from the virus.

“I think they’re actually linked. We have a greater sense of urgency,” said Krishna Udayakumar, the founding director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center.

Dr. Udayakumar said countries such as Australia, which earned plaudits for its virus-control measures, are operating in a calmer environment than the U.S., “where we’ve seen horrendous outcomes in terms of outcomes, hospitalizations.”

“We bet a lot of our recovery on getting as much of our vaccines rolled out as quickly as possible,” he said.

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