Slow, chaotic vaccine roll-out falls short of year end goals – National & International News-Fri.1Jan2021

Hundreds of Florida seniors are lining up for hours outside vaccine distribution centers, hoping to be vaccinated on a first-come, first-served basis.
January 1st, 2021     Today's News Summary

Slow, chaotic vaccine roll-out falls short of goals. Immigrant rights activists warn against complacency under Biden. Britain officially separates from EU. That and more below…


Slow, chaotic vaccine roll-out falls short of goals

Manufacturing hiccups, delivery mishaps, and line-jumpers have made for a messy vaccine roll-out across the country. Officials had hoped to have vaccinated 20 million Americans by the end of 2020. As of yesterday, they had fallen well short of that goal, having vaccinated only 2.8 million. The government had also managed to distribute only 14 million doses to states.

Some of the greatest hold-ups have been in care homes, whose long-term residents are particularly vulnerable. As of December 30, the government had distributed 2.2 million doses for nursing home residents, but only 170,000 have been administered.

Along with the nation’s 3 million permanent care residents, the nation’s 21 million frontline healthcare workers are first in line for the vaccine. Over 50 million “essential” workers in other fields will follow before the vaccine becomes generally available.

Florida has bucked CDC advice and is offering people 65 and older vaccines on a first-come, first-served basis. As a result, hundreds of seniors are lining up for hours outside distribution centers. The situation has created a logistical nightmare for workers. Additionally, the congregating seniors themselves could potentially create a super-spreader event.

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Immigrant rights activists warn against complacency under Biden

Many who have looked on in horror at the abuses of immigrants in ICE custody for the past four years have lost sight of one very important fact. That is that many of Trump’s most punishing policies were merely a progression of Obama-era policies. Immigrant rights activists are alarmed that many of Obama’s immigration officials have found their way into the still-forming Biden administration.

Erika Pinheiro of immigrant advocacy group Al Otro Lado hopes that people will not complacent on this issue once Trump is out of office. “There’s still a lot of work to do,” Pinheiro says. “It’s not a given that everyone will be reunified, or families, babies are going to be let out of cages – family detention still exists.”

Al Otro Lado assists migrants and their families on both sides of the border. The group provides legal support to help with family reunification, detention, access to healthcare, asylum, deportation and other issues. The group began its work in 2011 during Obama’s administration. Obama’s administration oversaw more deportations than any of his predecessors, earning him the moniker Deporter-in-Chief.

Pinheiro hopes that the Obama immigration personnel in Biden’s administration “have been able to reflect on how the systems they built were weaponized by Trump to do things like family separation or detaining children”.

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Britain officially separates from EU

Days after the British Parliament approved a new EU trade pact, Britain has official completed its separation from the EU. The development is over four years in the making, causing great uncertainty both in Britain and on the Continent. Although markets hailed the twelfth hour trade agreement, many in Britain feel that its hard-won independence from the common market is now a Pyrrhic victory. When the “leave” campaign began in 2015, it’s staunchest advocates (including now-PM Boris Johnson) promised that Britain would retain the advantages of the common market while shedding the strictures of EU governance. This was not to be, however. The EU, Britain’s most important trading partner, made it clear that they were not willing to relax their regulations to continue trading freely with the UK.

The closing days of 2020 brought more bad news for Britain’s relationship with the Continent. The emergence of a new strain of COVID caused bans across Europe for incoming British travelers and freight. While this crisis has now eased somewhat, it foiled British merchant’s plans to stock up on certain EU goods before the new year. British freight companies must now confront new obstacles in the form of paperwork and restrictions. It will be some time before Britain adjusts and determines whether or not “leaving” was the right decision.

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Aid agencies warn of “catastrophic” world hunger

While we have left 2020 behind, some of its woes will remain with us for some time. The UN and other agencies fear catastrophic levels of hunger in 2021 in parts of Africa as well as Yemen. Aside from COVID, conflict and cuts in UN funding, East Africa suffered a devastating plague of locusts, which eventually spread across the Arabian Peninsula and as far away as Pakistan.

An annual report by the UN warns that food costs have increased by as much as 10% in some countries. This is in part due to COVID’s disruption of supply chains, transport and farming activities. The UN’s World Food Program warned in June that food insecurity in the countries it serves could rise by 80% as a result of the pandemic, affecting 270 million people. Unicef has also predicted that 10 million people, many of them children, will experience acute malnutrition in 2021.

Some countries, such as the UK, are attempting to do their part to head off such a disaster, but the rest of the world, beset by its own woes, has been slow to react.

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