The battle to contain COVID-19 “is in many ways a race between vaccines and variants,” in the words of Canadian Dr. Christopher Labos. Every infected person gives the coronavirus another opportunity to mutate, and some of those mutations are especially dangerous, either because they spread more easily or cause more severe illness.
In the United States, where vaccine supplies are plentiful, low vaccination rates are increasingly linked to hesitancy rather than access problems. But COVID-19 vaccines are in short supply across much of the world. While the U.S. and some other wealthy countries are donating vaccines to poorer countries, the donation program will cover shots for at most 20 percent of the population in recipient countries.
The highly transmissible Delta variant, which is becoming dominant in the U.S. and Iowa and prompted Israel to reintroduce some mask mandates, was first identified in India, where vaccines are not widely available. Uncontrolled outbreaks anywhere will cause preventable loss of life and increase the risk of a variant emerging that can defeat current vaccines.
For that reason, more than 100 developing countries have asked the World Trade Organization to temporarily waive intellectual property rights for “health products and technologies” related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including vaccines. The Trump administration opposed the waiver, but the Biden administration endorsed the proposal in early May. The pharmaceutical industry has been running an advertising campaign against the policy.
Iowa’s members of Congress have split along party lines.Continue Reading...