Wake up, America

I’ve been disturbed by American selfishness — we seriously have swarms of people who are anti-vaccinations, and conspiracy theorists who believe the pandemic is a “plandemic” — and maybe we should look beyond our shores for the global perspective.

So, India…brace yourself for the horrific news.

On Friday, India reported more than 332,000 coronavirus cases in one day – the highest ever recorded by a single country.

Since the start of the pandemic, the country has recorded more than 16 million cases and 186,000 deaths, according to a tracker by Johns Hopkins University.

This means it has now overtaken Brazil, with the second-highest number of confirmed cases worldwide. The first remains the US.

The hospitals are full. People are dying in stretchers outside the hospital, waiting for care. And then, once they’ve died, they’re overwhelming the crematoria.

The unprecedented death rates are overwhelming the nation’s crematoriums.

“No one in Delhi would have ever witnessed such a scene. Children who were 5 years old, 15 years old, 25 years old are being cremated. Newlyweds are being cremated. It’s difficult to watch,” Jitender Singh Shunty, who runs a makeshift crematorium, told Reuters.

As the crematoriums are overrun, people are turning t mass burials in makeshift facilities like parking lots.

We have a moral obligation to make sure everyone in the world gets the best treatment. If you need a selfish reason, one of the reasons for the recent surge in India is the rise of new COVID variants.

How about some good news, though? We might have a successful malaria vaccine!

A vaccine against malaria has been shown to be highly effective in trials in Africa, holding out the real possibility of slashing the death toll of a disease that kills 400,000 mostly small children every year.

The vaccine, developed by scientists at the Jenner Institute of Oxford University, showed up to 77% efficacy in a trial of 450 children in Burkina Faso over 12 months.

Yes! This has the potential to be the biggest medical breakthrough of the 21st century. Defeating malaria would be huge.

Now we just have to get regulatory agencies to attach as high a priority to controlling tropical diseases as we do those that afflict temperate countries.

Hill said the institute might apply for emergency approval for the malaria vaccine just as it did for the Covid jab. “I’m making the argument as forcefully as I can, that because malaria kills a lot more people than Covid in Africa, you should think about emergency-use authorisation for a malaria vaccine for use in Africa. And that’s never been done before.”

The institute would probably ask the regulatory bodies in Europe or the UK for a scientific opinion on the vaccine and then apply to the World Health Organization for approval for use in Africa. “They did Covid in months – why shouldn’t they do malaria in a similar length of time as the health problem is an even greater scale in Africa?” Hill said.

They’ve arranged to have the vaccine mass produced by the Serum Institute of India…uh-oh. You might have guessed this: those facilities are overwhelmed right now by the need to churn out COVID-19 vaccines to deal with the pandemic surge.

Everything is interconnected! Wake up!


  1. nomadiq says

    Resistance to getting vaccinated comes from a number of different sectors of society, but I think we could address resistance of white right wingers…. suggest their jab will be shipped off (at tax payer expense) to black and brown people in other countries.

    Given the situation in poor countries right now, perhaps vaccine in those countries right now is the greater good in terms of saving lives and stopping mutant variants

  2. dianne says

    One point on the malaria vaccine: the trial with the great results was a phase 2. The Covid vaccines were all approved on phase 3 results (except Sputnik, but that’s a different story). A phase 3 trial should be started as quickly as possible in parallel with an EUA to ensure that the results hold up.

  3. says

    I spent 90 minutes on hold with my insurance company in a Walgreens only to find out that the vaccine was free and they were just jerking me around. American health care sucks hardcore. Sorry, had to get that part out of the way.

    This is what happens in a world with 7 billion damn dirty apes. We’ll get through this, but it will happen again. A robust healthcare system is going to be essential in the 21st century. The US doesn’t have one of those. Much of the 3rd world doesn’t have that either. Do you see the connection?

  4. says

    @4 Warren Senders
    Dude, you can’t paint the country with the second highest population on the planet with a stroke that broad. That’s racist and cruel. Like ignorant savage cruel. YOU ARE NOT HELPING.

  5. raven says

    The unprecedented death rates are overwhelming the nation’s crematoriums.
    As the crematoriums are overrun, people are turning t mass burials in makeshift facilities like parking lots.

    That would never happen in the USA.
    We are much more advanced.

    When our death processing facilities are overwhelmed by Covid-19 virus victims, we use refrigerated trucks also known as mobile morgues to store all the dead bodies. (This is sarcasm.)
    It is not a good sign when the refrigerated trucks show up in your neighborhood.

  6. raven says

    For much of the pandemic, the fundie xian/GOP strategy to fight the virus outbreak was to do nothing, that is let the virus circulate freely until herd immunity is reached. For a time, that was more or less the Trump maladministration’s main plan.
    As many pointed out, this was not a good idea.

    .1. Herd immunity is a myth.
    We could spend years with millions of Americans dead and still not reach herd immunity for many reasons.
    .2. We are also now seeing what the GOP/Trump plan would have looked like.
    Brazil used that plan and they have the same problems that India has.
    It’s been a year and things are getting worse not better.
    India has been trying to control the Covid-19 virus but their efforts have been hit or miss and obviously, not enough to work.
    They’ve run out of oxygen, which is a huge lifesaver for seriously ill patients.
    They have now also run out of hospital ICU space.
    A lot of people that wouldn’t die are now dying for lack of care.

    The lesson is that doing nothing during a viral outbreak isn’t a good idea.

    The GOP/Trump plan did accomplish one thing though.
    It cost him the election in 2020.
    That 1/2 million dead US residents bothered enough people to vote for Biden.

  7. birgerjohansson says

    It is not racism to state the leadership of India during the pandemic has been less than stellar. And pandering to religion and BS is the core value of the Hindu nationalist party.

  8. raven says

    @2 Yeah, Ron Johnson is the most ignorant of our Senators.

    NYmag Ron johnson

    But Johnson also went a step further, declaring he sees “no reason to be pushing vaccines on people,” arguing their distribution should be “limited” to those most vulnerable to coronavirus, and asking, “if you have a vaccine, quite honestly, what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?”

    We need 70% to 90% of our population vaccinated to reach herd immunity.
    The range is so wide because we don’t actually even know how many need to be vaccinated.
    It’s also higher now because the Covid-19 virus has evolved and the new variants are much more transmissable. Control efforts that worked on the first generation virus aren’t working as well any more.

    Which tells you why we need to stop the circulation of the virus.
    There is nothing that says the variants that have taken over won’t just keep evolving.
    To be even more transmissable, maybe more pathogenic, and certainly to escape the current vaccines we are using, antigen escape.

    The main group of vaccine resisters are white fundie xian Republicans.
    They are going to make things much more difficult for the rest of us while also owning the libs by catching the virus, getting sick, and dying or becoming permanently disabled.

  9. raven says

    The current vaccines are given to people age 16 and older.
    Which leaves a large population of unvaccinated people who are known to spend lots of time together.
    Our children play together and spend at least 5 days a week in school.

    I wondering if this is a good idea.
    If we vaccinate most of the adults to the point of herd immunity, that still leaves the virus with a large target population.
    It could be a good way to select for Covid-19 variants that can infect and replicate better in…children.
    That is not going to go over very well.

    They are now doing clinical trials with the vaccines in children so it is likely that recommendation is going to change.

  10. KG says

    @4 Warren Senders
    Dude, you can’t paint the country with the second highest population on the planet with a stroke that broad. – Ray Ceeya@6

    Talking of broad strokes…

    This is what happens in a world with 7 billion damn dirty apes. – Ray Ceeya@5

  11. davidc1 says

    That is so sad ,last year there was a article in The Guardian about a lady health worker in India ,she was doing the right thing regarding tracking and tracing people who were exposed to the Covid virus .Result ,hardly any deaths on her manor .
    I hope she is ok .
    @4 ” But was moved up a year by the government on the advice of their astrologers.”
    FFS .

  12. says

    Earlier we were looking at India COVID case counts, and were surprised to find that the case rates per capita were not that much higher than the US presently, and lower than where the US was in January. It’s possible the numbers aren’t comparable and I’m not expert enough to know that. But I felt like it said something about how badly the US did.

  13. says

    It’s a little bit buried in that first quote up there, but…

    This means it has now overtaken Brazil, with the second-highest number of confirmed cases worldwide. The first remains the US.

    The article also notes that the death toll in India may be much higher, but is undercounted because so many die before they are able to be treated.

  14. raven says

    Just saw this article.
    Looks like the actual death toll in India is “2 to 5 times what is reported.”

    NYTimes April 24, 2021Updated 11:37 a.m. ET (edited for length)
    Fatalities have been overlooked or downplayed, understating the human toll of the country’s outbreak, which accounts for nearly half of all new cases in a global surge.

    NEW DELHI — India’s coronavirus second wave is rapidly sliding into a devastating crisis, with hospitals unbearably full, oxygen supplies running low, desperate people dying in line waiting to see doctors —
    and mounting evidence that the actual death toll is far higher than officially reported.

    Each day, the government reports more than 300,000 new infections, a world record, and India is now seeing more new infections than any other country by far, almost half of all new cases in a global surge.

    Accounts from around the country tell of the sick being left to gasp for air as they wait at chaotic hospitals that are running out of lifesaving oxygen.
    Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan who has been following India closely,
    “From all the modeling we’ve done, we believe the true number of deaths is two to five times what is being reported.”

  15. whheydt says

    Re: diane @ #3…
    I was reading an article a couple of days ago reporting on the Phase 2 trials. It said they are recruiting for the Phase 3 trial.

    Re: Ray Ceena @ #5…
    It’s been pretty widely publicized that the shots are free, though the organization actually giving the shots can charge a small fee for actually doing so. I got mine through a county facility and there was no charge. That subject didn’t even come up.

    I live in a three-generation household. My wife and I (both in our 70s) have had both shots. My second one was three weeks ago and my wife’s a week before that. The “middle generation” (40s) have each had one shot with second shots scheduled for early May. We are all–eagerly–waiting for vaccine approvals for those younger than 16 so that the 13-year-old grandson can be vaccinated. His parents did not authorize him physically going back to (hybrid) school, so he’s still all remote. I expect a return to in-person schooling when the next academic year starts, unless a number of things go pear shaped before then. (I really wish I had more confidence that ALL of the school staff were getting vaccinated, but I think they’ve got some hold-outs.)

  16. says

    Counting number of cases like this seems… strange. India has 1.3 billion people, US has 0.3 billion, Brazil has 0.2. I would expect that India and China would be the countries with the most cases. If all countries were doing as well as each other, they certainly would. The fact that they’re barely second is either an indication of how amazingly well they’ve handled the pandemic or of how amazingly poorly US and Brazil have.

  17. PaulBC says

    c0i9z@18 I think China has handled it remarkably well, even if you take the exact numbers with skepticism. It’s unclear to me how they managed this.

  18. raven says

    Counting number of cases like this seems… strange.

    Per capita would be better.
    It is what is usually reported anyway.

    The USA is famous for not handling the pandemic very well.
    And, we’ve got the dead bodies at 570,000 and going up to show for it.
    However, the end of the pandemic is in sight in the USA.
    42% of the US population has gotten at least one dose of vaccine.
    We are below the peak in both cases and deaths per day.

    You can’t say that for either Brazil or India.
    Things are bad and could get a lot worse for a lot longer.
    Think about it.
    How do you control a very transmissable virus running wild in a country of 1.3 billion people like India.
    No one knows right now and that is what we are seeing.
    It’s also likely that the reported death toll in India is 2-5 times less than the actual death toll.

    Our health care system also didn’t collapse.
    Though, it certainly came close during the era of the famous refrigerated trucks.
    The health care systems in Brazil and India have collapsed.

  19. dorght says

    I was thinking yay malaria can finally meet the fate of smallpox. Than I researched and found that there are over 200 varieties of malaria and many animal reservoirs. Good news is currently only 5 of the varieties infect humans. So unlikely to be able to wipe malaria out, but with good vaccination and surveillance programs should be able to reduce it substantially in humans.

  20. unclefrogy says

    I can not help it that my mind likes to it seems draw grim parallels with literature (including film) I have read and seen there is of course “Omega Man” ,Survivors , “the plague” and numerous others I wont list here. I think it might be that growing up in the 50’s and 60’s has helped explain my fascination (morbid?) with apocalyptic fiction having grown up under the shadow of “the bomb”. The one that keeps popping up most often is “The Lathe of Heaven” the hero cures the population problem by dreaming up a huge pandemic which resulted in the appropriate outcome no more over population problem. His next solution was world peace by space invaders.
    I just don’t want to live through “the road” thank you very much
    uncle frogy

  21. dianne says

    Re the undercount in India, remember that the official count in the US is about 50% under the actual excess death rate. At least it was last time I checked. It might be better now, but the bottom line is we’ve probably lost on the order of 750K people to Covid. It’s almost painful to see the efficient vaccination going on because it’s a reminder of how much better we could have done if we as a society had simply been willing to vote for a woman over a fascist.

  22. says

    Indian pharmaceutical companies are capable of producing the vaccine in large enough amounts to vaccinate their domestic population. So why didn’t they begin when it was available? Because wealthy countries refused to waive the patents on the vaccines. If developing nations refused to or couldn’t afford to pay, they wouldn’t get the vaccine.

    As I accuse them in my own post, they’re turning this into a game of The Little Red Hen: “You didn’t want the vaccine tested on your people last year? Fine, you don’t get any this year.”

  23. chrislawson says


    Herd immunity is NOT a myth. It is a crucially important concept in public health. The problem has been politicians (and a handful of sockpuppet public health physicians betraying their vocation) misapplying the concept of herd immunity as a cover for political recklessness.

  24. bcw bcw says

    Maybe write your Senator or Biden and urge them to release the AstraZeneca vaccine stockpiles to India.

  25. says

    @6 Ray Ceeya: Pointing out that Indian politics is distorted by Hindu fundamentalist forces is no more controversial than noting that US politics is distorted by Xtian fundamentalists. The Modi government fucked up their COVID response after a pretty good start, even without the advice of astrologers about the timing of the Kumbha Mela. Taking the advice of astrologers allowed a 50-million-person superspreader event to happen.

    I just lost an old friend in Mumbai to COVID, less than an hour ago.

  26. PaulBC says

    Warren Senders@30 I agree that Hindu nationalism is an incredibly dangerous trend in India, and was already on the verge of destroying the country with or without COVID. I don’t follow Modi very closely. He would barely be on my radar at all except for a friend of mine from grad school who has expressed alarm on multiple occasions. He’s of Indian Muslim background.

    Where I disagree with your framing in @4 is blaming “religion”. Religious belief shares the blame along with other human tendencies such as tribalism. What irritates me most about some atheist rhetoric is treating religion as the cause of all problems. Problems are often caused simply by people treating each other like shit for whatever reason. They can also be caused by ignorance even without malicious intent. Superstition is one form of ignorance, but taking it away would not be nearly as efficacious in solving all the other problems as some atheists seem to think.

  27. says

    @PaulBC 31: The Kumbha Mela is specifically a religious event. For the Modi government and the state governments involved in the planning for the Mela to be consulting astrologers rather than epidemiologists is a tragic symptom of the religiosity of Indian politics.

    I don’t assume that religion is the cause of all of India’s problems, and I never said so, way up in comment 4. I said that it (the Indian government’s irresponsible mishandling of COVID) “had a huge religious component.” Which it DOES, as witness a religious superspreader event that dwarfs the United States’ evangelical megachurches.

    To ignore or downplay the religious influence on Indian politics is folly (for example, N.T. Rama Rao, a former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, became famous as a film actor who played Krishna in 17 movies; he campaigned in his God-Costume). I lived in Pune during the rise of the Shiv Sena & the BJP, and I found them absolutely terrifying. Modi IMO is more of the same.

  28. says

    @#21, raven

    However, the end of the pandemic is in sight in the USA.

    Not likely. We’re already seeing variants which are resistant to existing vaccines. More, and worse, such variants will appear the longer the pandemic continues anywhere. There is no such thing as “the end of the pandemic in a local area” unless that area both has 0 cases and enforces a complete strict quarantine with full border control, and the US has neither one, nor will it ever realistically be able to achieve either one. (And it’s not just the Mexican border which is significant in this case — Canada is having a bunch of local surges right now, and it’s being reported that people are using the long unpatroled border to sneak in and out of the country without quarantining. Great!)

    The only way to solve this problem on anything like a permanent basis is to end patent protection on the vaccines and give the third world doses at cost.

  29. unclefrogy says

    maybe not or maybe we will just beat this one the next one will hit us harder and deeper into the climate change with the added mass movement of people forced leave their homes. by drought and flooding
    “happy days are here again” not
    uncle frogy

  30. siessor says

    @4 Warren Senders
    Not to defend the actions of govt. of India or the state of UP. The government has no role in fixing the festival dates.
    All Hindu religious observances are based on astrological significances of astronomical observations, i.e., relative positions of certain stars/constellations and planets. They are not based on western calendar. Kumbh Mela in Haridwar happens approximately once in 12 years and runs for 4 months, from January to April. For Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, position of Jupiter is of significance. Because of that, every few cycles, the Mela happens on the 11th year. That is why it is happening in 2021 (the last one was in 2010).
    However, due to COVID concerns, it was restricted to 30 days in April. It still ended up being a super spreader event. The government could have and should have severely restricted the number of pilgrims and mandated proper COVID hygiene. Political calculations (local elections in a few states) I am sure, played a role here.
    As the numbers spiked, in mid-april, the PM appealed to the heads of the religious orders to restrict the number of pilgrims, but it was too little too late.