As Americans continue to take steps toward normal life, India and several other countries are dealing with an explosion of new coronavirus infections likely to delay the world’s recovery from the deadly crisis, health authorities warned Monday.
The number of COVID-19 cases reported around the world in the last two weeks was higher than the total of confirmed infections in the first six months of the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization. India and Brazil, which are going through their worst days since the pandemic began, account for more than half of last week’s cases, the agency said.
WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said many other countries also face “a very fragile situation” and are running out of basic hospital supplies.
“What is happening in India and Brazil could happen elsewhere unless we all take these public health precautions that WHO has been calling for since the beginning of the pandemic,” he told reporters during a news briefing in Geneva.
Ghebreyesus said vaccines are “part of the answer,” but he called on the world’s richest countries to lead a global effort to help nations with limited vaccine supplies.
“We face a shared threat that we can only overcome with shared solutions,” he said. “Sharing financial resources, sharing vaccine doses and production capacity and sharing technology, know-how and waiving intellectual property.”
India’s coronavirus outbreak has reached catastrophic levels in recent days, with places of worship turning into makeshift hospitals and crematoriums becoming overcrowded, especially in densely populated cities like Mumbai and New Delhi. On Saturday, Indian officials reported more than 400,000 new cases for the first time. It was part of a 10-day stretch of more than 300,000 daily cases across the country.
The nation of 1.3 billion people has the second highest number of confirmed cases, with nearly 20 million infections so far. The U.S. still has the highest, with more than 32 million.
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Scientists scramble to see why even vaccinated get infected
Carey Alexander Washington, 80, a practicing clinical psychologist, called his daughter in January as soon as he received his first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
“He was just so excited that he had gotten it,” said Tanya Washington, 49, a resident of Atlanta who works at an investment firm.
Carey received his second shot Feb. 4. A little more than a month later, the South Carolina resident experienced shortness of breath. His internist did not test him for the virus. Carey, after all, was fully vaccinated. The doctor sent him to a cardiologist instead, who also didn’t test for the coronavirus.
On March 25, Carey died after nearly two weeks in the hospital, his final days in intensive care. COVID-19 had destroyed his lungs.
Carey was among a tiny proportion of people who had been vaccinated against COVID-19 and then contracted the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that about .008% of the fully vaccinated have become infected and about 1% of them have died. Public health officials said such cases were expected and their number reassuringly few.
“No suit of armor is 100% effective,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert at UC Berkeley.
But the so-called breakthrough infections remain troubling, and the reported numbers are likely lower than the actual cases. They serve as cautionary tales to fully vaccinated people to get tested if they develop symptoms for the infection and to continue to follow health guidelines.
In Carey Washington’s case, his daughter wondered if he might have survived if he had been tested early on for the coronavirus, after his symptoms appeared. Did his vaccination status deter his doctors from testing him?
As the pandemic continues, researchers want to know more about such cases, including the role different strains of the virus may play and whether infected people share traits or behavior that made them more vulnerable. The information could lead to modifications of the vaccine or how it is administered to certain people.
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