confusion and misinformation with which we’re still dealing today.”
In the end, management of the crisis devolved to individual states, Schaffner notes. That set up a scenario resembling an out-of-sync orchestra.
In nations that fared better against SARS-CoV-2, “there’s a [political] conductor, we’re all playing off the same sheet of music”; something that Schaffner believes did not happen in the United States.
“Countries that had a national policy did better than those who fractionated their leadership,” he explains.
Science was slow to catch up
Scientists weren’t entirely blameless, either, Schaffner adds.
“We epidemiologists were slow to realize that COVID was different from those other coronaviruses that jumped species to the human population,” he says. “They were hard to transmit, and we thought initially that COVID was similar. It turned out to be a very different virus. It was transmitted very readily. It had a lot of asymptomatic infection and spread very, very rapidly. It took us epidemiologists too long to recognize that.”
Another expert believes that the rapid advent and deployment of effective COVID-19 vaccines in 2021 could have been an opportunity to slow fatal COVID cases.
However, “the most significant aspect of the death toll is the fact that more deaths occurred after the vaccine was available than before,” according to Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, in Baltimore.
Vaccines are still the greatest protection against COVID
“An extremely high proportion of deaths are vaccine-preventable and were, in effect, chosen or willful because people turned away from the vaccines and bought into fallacious misinformation and conspiracy theories,” Adalja shares.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the President of United States, hopes this milestone will “call attention” to the risks unvaccinated people face and prompt them to consider getting vaccinated.
“If you look at the difference in hospitalization and death, between vaccinated and unvaccinated, you know this number screams out to us why we should be getting more people vaccinated,” Fauci says.
Find out more about COVID-19 at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.