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Can We End the Pandemic?

The emergence of dangerous new coronavirus variants is threatening the progress that we have made with the help of COVID-19 vaccines. It is now clear that our pharmaceutical research efforts and public-health interventions will need to be redoubled – and without any sunset clauses.

CAMBRIDGE – At the start of the year, there was reason to hope that we were beginning to see the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the United States, the daily rate of new cases from the holiday surge began to drop precipitously, and the vaccine rollout accelerated soon thereafter. Although Europe lagged in the early months of 2021, there, too, the tide started to turn by April, as the pace of vaccination finally picked up.

But now that summer is almost upon us, the tide has turned once again, and not in our favor. New infections have been skyrocketing across South America, with countries like Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia approaching all-time highs of new infections in the past week. India crossed its own grim milestone last month with more than 400,000 new infections in a single day – a nearly unimaginable surge that overwhelmed hospitals and left families scrambling for any kind of care, oxygen, or medicines they could find. Even here in the US, states like Michigan and Oregon have struggled with recent spikes.

These resurgences should remind us that even with millions of vaccines being administered in some countries, the pandemic is far from over. We are certainly not back where we started, but nor can we ignore the challenges that await us.

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