Global COVID-19 Deaths Hit Four Million Amid Rush to Vaccinate

(AP) -
A Tropical Medicine University virology lab researcher works to develop a test that will detect the P.1 variant of the new coronavirus, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

The global death toll from COVID-19 eclipsed four million Wednesday as the crisis increasingly becomes a race between the vaccine and the highly contagious Delta variant.

The tally of lives lost over the past year and a half, as compiled from official sources by Johns Hopkins University, is about equal to the number of people killed in battle in all of the world’s wars since 1982, according to estimates from the Peace Research Institute Oslo.

The toll is three times the number of people killed in traffic accidents around the globe every year. It is about equal to the population of Los Angeles or the nation of Georgia. It is equivalent to more than half the population of Hong Kong or close to 50% of that of New York City.

Even then, the death toll is widely believed to be an undercount because of overlooked cases or deliberate concealment.

With the advent of the vaccine, deaths per day have plummeted to around 7,900, after topping out at over 18,000 a day in January.

However, in recent weeks, the mutant Delta version of the virus first identified in India has set off alarms around the world, spreading rapidly even in vaccination success stories like the U.S., Britain and Israel.

Britain, in fact, recorded a one-day total this week of more than 30,000 new infections for the first time since January, even as the government prepares to lift all remaining lockdown restrictions in England later this month.

Other countries have re-imposed preventive measures, and authorities are rushing to step up the campaign to dispense shots.

At the same time, the disaster has exposed the gap between the haves and the have-nots, with vaccination drives barely getting started in Africa and other desperately poor corners of the world because of extreme shortages of shots.

The U.S. and other wealthy countries have agreed to share at least one billion doses with struggling countries.

The U.S. has the world’s highest reported death toll, at over 600,000, or nearly one in seven deaths, followed by Brazil at more than 520,000.

The variants, uneven access to vaccines, and the relaxation of precautions in wealthier countries are “a toxic combination that is very dangerous,” warned Ann Lindstrand, a top immunization official at the World Health Organization.

Instead of treating the crisis as a “me-and-myself-and-my-country” problem, she said, “we need to get serious that this is a worldwide problem that needs worldwide solutions.”