I’m sure we all agree that COVID-19 is the worst thing that has happened to humankind since the 1918 Spanish flu. For well over a century, the sinking of the Titanic was viewed as the worst disaster, and for good reason because over 1500 people died. However, the 911 Twin Towers bombing quickly overtook that by claiming nearly twice as many lives – nearly 3000 (2977 to be exact). So, for well over a decade, we have sorrowfully reflected on this terrible tragedy. Another thing that made this event so horrific is that it was done on purpose, unlike the Titanic, which was an accident. (Yes, the Titanic sinking was preventable, but still an accident nevertheless.)
Now, if we compare these events with COVID-19, the numbers are nothing short of cataclysmic. In just one day – December 10, 2020 – in the US alone – more people died of COVID-19 than in the entire 911 tragedy. As of December 24, 2020, the COVID-19 death toll in the US has exceeded that of 911 by over a hundredfold – over 325 thousand deaths since the pandemic began! And still the death rate is at a record level – over 3300 deaths/day and climbing. But, somewhat like the Titanic, COVID-19 was not intended (despite some various conspiracy theory corners). This is just the US alone. Most other parts of the world are experiencing the same or similar magnitude problem.
Furthermore, these numbers don’t even take into account the collateral effects resulting from the necessary safety precautions we must take to minimize the spread. According to the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), a staggering 40% of adults reported their struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues, and 11% have seriously considered suicide. Also, not to mention, is the severe economic impact, as this pandemic has caused many businesses to fail and has put many people out of work.
So how are we going to put an end to this apocalypse? Most doctors/other healthcare professionals, epidemiologists and immunologists strongly agree that the best and most quick and viable solution lies in a safe and effective vaccine. But this doesn’t happen overnight. It usually takes 5-10 years to develop and test a vaccine. And other vaccines that have been recently developed to fight somewhat similar coronaviruses (AKA the flu) have proven only approximately 60-70% effective at best. Just imagine what a 70% efficacy would mean. Even if vaccinated, we still stand a 30% chance of getting sick with COVID-19 if exposed.
However, thanks to Operation Warp Speed and the tireless efforts of countless doctors, immunologists, and other researchers, a most safe and highly effective vaccine technology has been independently developed and tested by two separate companies, Pfizer and Moderna. It is now being distributed and administered – all in less than a year! The key enabler is the further development and application of the mRNA technology. This miracle technology has become available in record time while also being most safe and effective. I remember during the development and early trial phases, the efficacy – or the likelihood of the vaccine preventing the disease – was originally estimated to be around 60-70% at best. The FDA had even set the bar down to only 50%. Pfizer and Moderna smashed that expectation with their vaccines that are 94%-95% effective, and with no known serious safety concerns. All this happened in less than a year’s time. If that’s not a miracle, then I don’t know what is!
So now, despite the pandemic having reached its worst stage ever with surging cases, hospitalizations and deaths across the US, we have a huge beacon of hope that this absolute nightmare will soon end. As with all past pandemics, including Polio and the Measles, which is just as much or more contagious as COVID-19, the vaccine will wipe out the pandemic and enable us all to return to our normal lives. It’s just a matter of the vaccine rollout and administration, which will happen over the next several months.
Meanwhile, we must be patient, as it will take some time for enough people to receive the vaccine in order for us to start collectively realizing its benefits. Like anything new, it takes time for volume production rates to ramp up. That’s why only a very select group of individuals is receiving the vaccine now and that most of us will have to wait our turn. And couple this with the fact that roughly 50% of our population must receive the vaccine before we even start to see an improvement. So please don’t be surprised or disheartened if we see the numbers continue to get worse despite the mass effort to produce, distribute and administer the vaccine. Instead, just know that this is very temporary and that, as we approach the 50% vaccinated mark, the numbers will start to steadily improve. I also anticipate that the rate of improvement will start out slow and will accelerate with time – sort of like the reverse of the “80/20” rule.
As for me personally, I am anxiously awaiting my time to get vaccinated, as it will enable me to move forward with my family and life plans, which are currently on hold solely due to COVID-19 and the related lock-downs and travel restrictions.
I know that a number of folks are still concerned about the “real” safety of the vaccine and its “real” effectiveness. In response, I can only share my own thought process: Very few things in life are absolutely 100% certain, including death and taxes (old joke/cliché). Thus, for everything else, we must manage within the many shades of gray. Given the high risk of contracting and getting sick with COVID-19, I am willing to assume some risk to prevent this from happening. With 21,500 and 15,000 Phase 3 trial participants receiving the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines respectively (the other half of the total trial participants received a placebo) and no one having a serious adverse side effect, I strongly believe the odds lie in our favor with the vaccine versus the risk of getting COVID-19. Hence, I’m “all in” on getting the vaccine immediately once my priority group’s (essential, non-frontline workers/professionals) turn occurs.
Photos: Credit to the owner