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Expand chart

America’s much-maligned vaccine rollout is actually going relatively well, at least compared to other wealthy countries.

The big picture: The U.S. has carried out more vaccinations than any country in the world, and given a first dose to a higher percentage of its population (12%) than all but five countries: Israel, the Seychelles, the UAE, the U.K. and Bahrain.

  • In fact, the U.S. is distributing doses three times as quickly as the EU, adjusted for population, and nearly five times as quickly as Canada.

The backstory: The U.S. has some major advantages over most of the world. Not only does America have the money to reserve more doses than it could possibly use, it also has the capacity to manufacture them domestically.

  • Canada’s slow rollout and the recent dispute over doses between the EU and U.K. have underlined the difficulties of relying on imports.
  • The U.S. also made massive bulk purchases early — through the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed — and thus ramped up production capacity while securing its spot at the front of the line.
  • The EU moved more slowly both in securing contracts and in approving vaccines, and has paid a price. Israel, by contrast, paid a premium and promised valuable data to get Pfizer’s vaccine early.
  • It also helps that the two most effective vaccines on the market were developed entirely (Moderna) or partially (Pfizer/BioNTech) in the U.S.

Between the lines: Despite crumbling infrastructure and chaotic politics, the U.S. remains a scientific, technological and manufacturing powerhouse. That has played to its advantage, as has the sense of urgency with which the U.S. approached the vaccination challenge.

  • Some wealthy countries that haven't been hit as hard by the pandemic, like Japan and South Korea, have been much slower to administer vaccines.
Data: Duke Global Health Innovation Center; Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Yes, but: The U.S. has secured world-leading vaccine supplies, but been somewhat less successful at translating them into actual vaccinations.

  • The most impressive rollouts have tended to come in countries with modern, centralized public health care infrastructure, making it easier to identify who's eligible for vaccinations and where to administer them. America's approach has at times appeared clunky by comparison.
  • President Biden has accused his predecessor of failing to develop a national distribution strategy, and promised to ramp things up quickly.

What to watch: If Biden's plan to vaccinate every willing American by July comes to fruition, the U.S. will likely be far ahead of nearly every other large country, including China.

The bottom line: America’s vaccine rollout has been imperfect, unequal, and at times deeply frustrating. But look around the world and it’s clear that it could be going a whole lot worse.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Feb 20, 2021 - Health

Breaking down the psychology of vaccine hesitancy

A woman receives a COVID-19 vaccine from a U.S. service member in Boston on Feb. 16. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

A new survey identifies some of the psychological barriers to taking vaccines — and how to overcome them.

The big picture: With COVID vaccine production and distribution ramping up, we're going to reach a moment when supply exceeds demand, which puts a premium on finding ways to persuade the persuadable on the value of vaccines.

Updated 7 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Here come Earmarks 2.0

DeLauro at a hearing in May 2020. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House Appropriations Committee is preparing to restore a limited version of earmarks, which give lawmakers power to direct spending to their districts to pay for special projects.

Why it matters: A series of scandals involving members in both parties prompted a moratorium on earmarks in 2011. But Democrats argue it's worth the risk to bring them back because earmarks would increase their leverage to pass critical legislation with a narrow majority, especially infrastructure and spending bills.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
39 mins ago - Energy & Environment

UN says Paris carbon-cutting plans fall far short

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nations' formal emissions-cutting pledges are collectively way too weak to put the world on track to meet the Paris climate deal's temperature-limiting target, a United Nations tally shows.

Driving the news: This morning the UN released an analysis of the most recent nationally determined contributions (NDCs) — that is, countries' medium-term emissions targets submitted under the 2015 pact.