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Sensemaker: Vaccinating America

Sensemaker: Vaccinating America

What just happened

Long stories short

  • Gunmen killed Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse in his Port-au-Prince home, sending the country into a state of emergency (more below). 
  • Australia announced it will send 2.5 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses to Indonesia, as its most populous neighbour fights record Covid infection rates.
  • Head of a Bear, a seven-by-seven centimetre drawing by Leonardo da Vinci, is expected to sell for up to £12 million at Christie’s auction house today.

Key number: 2 – goals in England’s column after a Danish own-goal and a soft penalty in yesterday’s Euro 2020 semi-final against Denmark. England will play Italy in the final.

Vaccinating America

About 58 per cent of American adults have been fully vaccinated against Covid. The number looks good – it compares favourably with many European countries – but it’s still some way off the 70 to 90 per cent mark that scientists think will achieve herd immunity. And in many parts of the country, where infections are rising, vaccination uptake has slowed or completely stopped. There’s one thing that a lot of those low-uptake areas have in common: they’re Trump country.

The graph below plots, for each of America’s 3,143 counties, Donald Trump’s vote share in the 2020 presidential election against the share of residents who said they’re hesitant to get a Covid vaccine in a US Department of Health survey conducted in June. 

The correlation isn’t perfect, but it’s significant. Vaccine hesitancy is, on average, higher in counties where residents voted to re-elect Trump.

There are other variables at play. Hesitancy is higher in rural counties, and in poorer and less educated ones. It’s higher among ethnically diverse populations. But even after controlling for these differences in a statistical model, the partisan division remains.

It remains even though Trump changed his position on the seriousness of the virus and the importance of vaccines over the course of the pandemic. In March, he urged his supporters to get vaccinated, describing the vaccine as “safe” and “something that works”. But he hedged his recommendation with a standard argument for vaccine sceptics: “We have our freedoms and we have to live by that”.

The current situation – in which public health policy is becoming less medical and more political – is absurd. It means that the plan Biden announced on Tuesday to accelerate vaccine uptake, including door-to-door outreach, mobile clinics, and paid time-off for employees to get jabbed, may be less effective in controlling the virus than a clear, unequivocal statement from Trump.

Belonging identity, society, beliefs, countries

Haitian crisis
A group of attackers stormed the home of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse’s in Port-au-Prince, the Caribbean country’s capital, killing him and injuring his wife. Officials said yesterday’s early-morning attack was a well-planned operation. By the evening, they claimed to have killed four suspects in a shoot-out and detained two others. They believe some suspects are at large. “They will be killed or captured,” police chief Leon Charles said. Moïse, a former banana exporter, was a strongman president. He was accused of using violent gangs to control political opposition. In the months before his death Moïse faced calls to resign, as poverty and hunger rose and armed gangs terrorised poor neighbourhoods.

New things technology, science, engineering

Goodbye, XTube
A statement from the porn site XTube revealed it would be shutting down on September 5th. XTube said it was moving “to greener pastures and greater things”. The site is run by MindGeek, the online porn giant and owner of PornHub, which is facing increasing scrutiny on sex and child trafficking charges. 115 million people visit MindGeek’s sites every day – more than Netflix or Amazon. Anti-trafficking and sexual abuse activist Laila Mickelwait tweeted in response to XTube’s statement: “Lesson: If you can’t operate legally, you can’t operate at all.” There is no evidence yet that the charges MindGeek is grappling with are the reason for the site’s takedown. But the Canadian conglomerate and its sites are no strangers to secrets – as we uncovered in our hunt for the porn king, Bernd Bergmair.

The 100-year life health, education, living, public poliCY

Vaccine effectiveness
A growing body of research shows that most Covid vaccines are highly effective at preventing hospitalisations. Vaccines have generally protected people against the Delta variant, which is now the dominant strain of the virus in the US. The research results vary by country. British researchers found that two doses of the Pfizer jab had an effectiveness rate of between 79 and 88 per cent against symptomatic disease. In Canada, researchers found an effectiveness of 87 per cent. In Israel, its effectiveness – against all Covid infections – was 64 per cent. Experts say that it’s hard to establish a single effectiveness number at this stage, but that the overall picture is clear: protection against severe disease remains high.

Our planet environment, natural resources, geopolitics

Dogs of war
Dogs are no strangers to battlefields, but they could now be deployed in Russia as paratroopers. Yes indeed. Footage released this week shows a doberman pinscher and a German shepherd skydiving from 4,000 meters attached to Russian parachutists. Technodinamika, a state-owned aviation company, said it was in the final stages of testing the country’s first canine parachute system. The company said it sometimes takes too long to reach military operations by foot or helicopter, a problem which can be fixed by the “four-legged law enforcement officers” dropping in by air instead. The organisation is also looking to create dog-specific oxygen equipment to enable it to increase the height of the drops. This isn’t entirely new ground. As the Guardian reported in 2010 – the SAS parachuted German shepherds into Afghanistan to scope out Taliban strongholds. 

Wealth investment, fairness, prosperity

Trump Suit
Donald Trump has filed class action lawsuits against the chief executives of Facebook, Twitter, and Google: Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Sundar Pichai. In the filing, Trump asked for the immediate restoration of his social media accounts and “punitive damages” from the big tech firms. He’s the lead class representative and said he’s suing on behalf of a wider group of people who, he argued, have been censored by the firms’ biased policies. The action is supported by a non-profit called the America First Policy Institute that is focused on continuing Trump’s policies. Trump has often filed lawsuits, but rarely followed them through to court. As it stands, this legal action will already have won him support from conservatives who rate censorship by big tech firms as major concerns.

Thanks for reading, and please share this around.

Paul Caruana Galizia

Phoebe Davis

Photographs Shutterstock, Getty Images

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