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Joe Biden’s presidency gave way to many substantial changes in the United States’ COVID-19 response. Thanks to the rapid vaccine distribution, we have seen the country slowly but surely return to a sense of normalcy and even preparing for a full reopening. Unfortunately, there have still been slight surges in COVID-19 cases across the country, which has caused some to criticize the U.S. for its handling of the pandemic. Although some countries are fairing more successfully than the U.S., other countries are unfortunately doing much worse.  

The U.S. had a rough start in 2020 with the Trump presidency having carried out one of the worst responses to COVID-19 seen in the world. Despite the evidence detailing the danger and infectiousness of the virus, President Trump continued until the final days of his presidency to deny the virus’s severity and block measures that would have prevented the further spread of the virus. As a result of his mishandling, more than 573,000 deaths occurred as a result of COVID-19 in the country. Trump’s denial, in addition to poor communication and enforcement of COVID-19 guidelines by the federal government, led to a delay in widespread mask usage in the country. We also cannot ignore the failure of the American healthcare system for being unable to provide ample care and medical supplies, exposing our inability to tackle a pandemic.  

Despite these setbacks, Biden’s presidency allowed for the passage of his $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal, which not only promised an effective vaccine rollout but more money to support struggling citizens. Vaccine distribution had been slow at first, but at the time of writing, as much as 40% of the country has received at least one dose of vaccination, well surpassing Biden’s goal of reaching 100 million doses within his first 100 days in office. 

Of course, there were a few bumps in the road, namely involving the Johnson and Johnson vaccine dilemma being the most recent case. Production of the vaccine was halted temporarily as a result of rare blood clotting, though this was only seen in a few people out of millions of doses. And while this did raise some doubt regarding the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccines, the overall effort has thankfully remained strong. However, with reopening, we have unfortunately witnessed a surge of cases again as well as the arrival of new variants. 

The U.S.’s overall response may appear to be lacking compared to the rest of the world, but this might not be the case. While some countries such as South Korea and China may have achieved firm control over the virus, other more underdeveloped countries have not been as successful.

India has fared quite terribly with the pandemic, facing an extremely deadly wave of cases. While the official death toll is estimated at about 200,000, experts say that the number could be six times higher. The country is under extreme duress as a result of a shortage in vaccines and oxygen supplies, leading some to purchase oxygen by the canister in order to provide for their loved ones. Vaccines have also become difficult to obtain and administer due to hospitals overflowing with cases, leaving less than 10% of India’s population vaccinated. Originally, India’s response to the pandemic was much stronger due to strict lockdown measures, which allowed the country to begin reopening at the beginning of the new year. Though initially contained, a resurgence began with new variants, which are harder to test due to a shortage in testing supplies. Other countries in South Asia face horrifyingly similar circumstances

Canada’s shortcomings also come as a surprise because, despite their praised response to the disease in 2020, the vaccine rollout has been unfortunately slow. Much of this is due to a lack of supply of vaccines coupled with no domestic production, as imports are back loaded and delayed. While Canada’s healthcare system has received extensive kudos, the decentralized system has run into problems with the rollout. Due to their system, different regions of the country utilize different healthcare systems, complicating distribution.

The pandemic response by the U.S. has been considered to be one of the best in the world, despite the setbacks faced during the pandemic’s initial handling and vaccine distribution. However, first-world countries, such as the United States and Canada, have continued to face issues with surges in cases and new variants, proving how contagious and dangerous the virus can be. Other countries have not fared as well, and India’s current COVID-19 surge sheds light on the dire circumstances faced by third world countries, where shortages in supplies and overflowing hospitals are too common. Only time will tell whose response was the most successful, while worldwide cooperation and communication currently maintain lifelines for many countries in crisis.