Four days after President Joe Biden declared the darkest days of the pandemic over, America is facing a burst of challenges that indicate Covid-19 is far from releasing its grip.
Time and again — as social distancing, families forced to stay apart and economic upheaval battered morale — the nation has shown it’s ready for the nightmare to end. But the virus doesn’t work on human or political timetables. Now there are warning signs that troubling days are ahead, threatening to escalate the political tensions of a period that has torn at bitter ideological divides. It all adds up to a serious problem for the White House, which has touted its competence in managing the vaccine rollout and handling the Covid crisis it inherited.
On Thursday, Pfizer reported that protection from its vaccine appeared to be waning over time and that it was developing a booster that should be taken between six and 12 months after recipients got their second doses, in order to restore full effectiveness. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Food and Drug Administration followed up that announcement with one of their own, in an effort to assure Americans that they don’t need to get booster shots yet and that those agencies will make the decision on when or whether those shots are needed. The good news is that the vaccine still has an extraordinarily high rate of preventing serious illness and death. So the miracle of Covid-19 vaccines remains intact, as there had long been expectations that boosters would be needed. But the latest development does suggest it will be imperative to extend a huge government inoculation effort into the future.
That will further complicate the task facing the White House at a moment when millions of skeptical Americans are balking at a first round of injections despite the success of the vaccine rollout. “It is hard to imagine we are going to be able to immunize 200 to 300 million people every year to this,” Dr Zeke Emanuel, a former health policy adviser to President Barack Obama, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.