Opinion | We’ve Come So Far With Vaccines, America. Now Keep Going.

By The Editorial Board

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

For all the missteps during its early days, the American coronavirus vaccination campaign is poised to go down as a triumph of science and public health. Seven months after the first shots were authorized for emergency use, 66 percent of adults — more than 100 million people — have received at least one dose. That’s not the 70 percent President Biden was aiming to reach by July 4, but it’s close, and it’s an impressive figure.

This progress has enabled the nation to edge its way back to something resembling normal. Daily case counts and death tolls are falling steadily in most places. Restaurants and theaters and barbershops are open. Mask mandates are being lifted. So far, most of the vaccines seem to work well against the dangerous Delta variant and all of its known cousins. What’s more, the latest research suggests that for most people, vaccine boosters will not be needed anytime soon.

It’s worth pausing to acknowledge this triumph. Last summer, the nation was praying for vaccines that would be at least 50 percent effective, and no one was sure whether or when they might arrive. This summer, millions of Americans have been inoculated with vaccines that are more effective than many dared to hope for.

But it’s too soon to declare total victory. The world is still locked in a desperate race between the coronavirus’s ability to evolve and society’s ability to vaccinate, and America’s lead in that race is precarious. The virus is evolving quickly and efficiently. Given enough time and enough susceptible hosts, it could still mutate its way around the human immune response and beyond the ability of existing vaccines to help. If that happens, the United States, and any other nations that have made such progress, will be forced backward.

The only way to prevent such a grim outcome is to vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible — not just in the United States but everywhere.

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