America’s coronavirus vaccine rollout has been quite impressive, with it currently sitting seventh in the world for doses given per 100 residents according to the Financial Times. President Biden set a goal of 100 million doses by his 100th day in office, and the country surpassed that with ease (by roughly six weeks). The new goal of 200 million doses by that same deadline seems as though it too will be quickly met, with the US averaging 2.9 million doses a day, as reported by the CDC. As of right now, America is on course to vaccinate 70% of the population, the lowest threshold argued by some for reaching herd immunity, by June 17.
The economy is also moving from strength to strength, with almost one million new jobs being added in March alone against the backdrop of increasing COVID protection. The Bureau of Labor Statistics attribute this to “the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic”.
This wave of progress and momentum swinging the most powerful nation in the world back to a much needed sense of normality, marks a very different America from the one we have been witness to for the last few years. Pandemic leadership was very much on the ballot last November, with citizens needing to decide between an incumbent who was adamant on downplaying the threat (unless it came to the plaudits he claimed he deserved for closing borders and vaccine creations), and a seasoned politician who emphasised the need to put the science and data first.
Since winning the election, President Biden has emphasised a more federal-based approach than his predecessor, with many viewing it as a “big government” overreach into healthcare. President Trump opted for a state-focussed approach that, as reported by Insider, left states “pitted against each other for the same supply of tests”. In terms of reception to these strategies, the answer seems to be clear: two thirds of American citizens Biden’s response.
The poll that delivered that figure also reports promising findings on vaccine hesitancy, with 17% now saying they definitely or probably won’t get a jab, compared to 22% in January.
Perhaps it is Biden’s strategy, pragmatism and commitment to the science that has lead to a transition towards promise and hope in recent times, or perhaps the “who” of the Presidency is irrelevant so long as jabs are going in arms and people can get back to life pre-COVID. While the former is perhaps the more likely, there still remains a lot of reconciling for America to do on the road out of this pandemic.
President Trump received the second largest vote tally ever, or as he would prefer it, the largest vote tally for a sitting president ever. The coronavirus scepticism and distrust that dominated his presidency will no doubt linger, and those most deeply entrenched in Trumpism will only have their fears reinforced by Biden’s large spending and stimuli. The data does paint a picture, however. According to the John Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, states with Republican governors have had the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, and, most importantly for this discussion, the governors’ “party affiliation may have contributed to a range of policy decisions that, together, influenced the spread of the virus”. Partisan affiliation is obviously a wide ideological spectrum and not a Trump-Biden dichotomy, but narrative remains an ever-present mediator in the fight against the virus.
A question that needs answering is whether or not a successful vaccine rollout is enough to change the minds of those most fervently opposed to the current President. What do they value more – their lives and their economic standing, or their narrative?