Make no mistake: Our ongoing battle with COVID-19 is really a world war.

Vaccination is one of the key weapons in the fight, and South Dakota is doing well in that regard. But the coronavirus respects no borders — not state or municipal boundaries, and not national lines.

So, while South Dakota is doing well and the United States has turned things around after being a COVID train wreck throughout much of 2020, we all remain vulnerable because other parts of the world are facing disasters.

Just look around. Two weeks ago, Brazil was a nightmare; today, India has collapsed into a catastrophe. And the continent of Africa has made so little headway in vaccinations —less than 2% of adults have had any vaccine at all — making it a prime candidate for a devastating outbreak.

And as long those outbreaks continue somewhere in the world, there is vulnerability everywhere. New infections can lead to new variants that can create new avenues of havoc for the world.

That’s why it’s important to attack the disease across the globe.

This must become a new priority for America and other nations, such as Great Britain and Israel, that have (momentarily, at least) apparently gotten an upper hand in combating the virus.

America’s fortunes in the COVID fight have reversed dramatically. Last summer, we were a disaster, so much so that other nations were sending us aid and supplies to deal with a virus that seemed to run unchecked across this land. For a country like this one to be the object of pity from other nations was truly a dark moment.

But that script has been flipped. The U.S. fast-tracked its vaccine development and has ramped up its output impressively. We’re now a leader in vaccine distribution. While cases are still not under the kind of control health experts want to see, we’re in a much better place at this moment, and we surely must remain determined to stay that way.

Nevertheless, we’re still vulnerable as long as others outside our borders are at risk.

There have been calls for the U.S. to take a more active leadership role in disseminating vaccine to the world. It’s understandable that we would prioritize our own people, especially given our experiences in the last year that have seen more than a half-million people killed. Now, we are in a position to address the bigger picture — the world view.

On Monday, the U.S. promised to share up to 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, and efforts are being made to share the other, more expensive vaccines — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — on a more global scale.

We cannot simply look at this as an American problem or a Chinese problem or and Indian problem, and we cannot aim for only local solutions. COVID is a plague upon humanity, and we all share the risk. We can only defeat it by fighting and prevailing together.

kmh

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