Exactly one year ago, in April of 2020, I wrote in this column:
Science will save us. And volunteers will (are) risking their lives to test these drugs and vaccines. And some of these folks will be unnamed in the history books, and that’s too bad. Because they’re on the front lines of this war as well.
I knew science would pull us out of the pandemic. But I also knew how long it usually takes to develop vaccines that actually work. I think I expected us to get therapeutics before we ever got a vaccine. I figured (back in those early days) that we’d mask up and wash our hands and follow the rules, and the pandemic would retreat.
Instead, we are still battling anti-science people, who think their personal liberties allow them to infect the rest of us, who believe that they have the right to go around without masks because masks interfere with their lives. Well, in the States, they do have that right, but their behavior shows how self-involved they are, how utterly ignorant they are, or as one sign says at a favorite restaurant of mine, how rude they are.
(The signs start with Be polite. Mask up. then the next sign reads, Still refusing to put on your mask? How rude! Mask up. And the final sign says, No mask? We don’t serve people who refuse to wear masks. Please do not enter this building. I think the thing that makes that final sign is the “please” because the signs emphasize politeness.)
Really, in those early days, I thought we’d band together, but I underestimated the then-leadership of the U.S. which was intent on an us-versus-them scenario rather than uniting people. (Had that leadership tried a message of unification, they might still be in power.)
But the science, though, the science really surprised me. I knew a year ago that scientists have been working on coronavirus vaccines for more than a decade now. The news was just coming out that these scientists believed they could tailor the vaccines that they were already working on to be effective against this coronavirus.
I expected the vaccine (one) when finished to be something like the flu shot, which would be 50% effective. That plus therapeutics, I thought, would be enough.
Shows what I know.
Three vaccines in the U.S., roughly 90% effective at stopping hospitalizations and death. Severe cases are just not happening to the vaccinated folks, although a very few do get mild cases. Holy cats! This is amazing. And within a year.
I got my first vaccine on March 22. It took only a few minutes to walk into the little room, get stabbed in the arm, and walk back into the pharmacy, where I had to roam for fifteen minutes, in case I had a severe reaction. (Not out of the possible for me; I’m allergic to damn near everything.)
That fifteen minutes flew by. I was in a daze. I had been so worried about getting the vaccine—waiting for the appointment, making the appointment, getting to the appointment on time, hoping they wouldn’t run out of vaccine before my appointment time—that when it happened, I didn’t quite believe it.
And yet, I felt like a different person. Because even if I failed to get my second dose (which I won’t), I knew that I had more protection from that one little stab in the arm than I’d had this entire scary year.
I hadn’t realized just how tense I’d been until some of that tension eased. And now I’m looking toward the future, with an eye on socializing again. On planning again. On being with friends again.
Because of science.
I grew up in the age of science. Maybe that’s why I’m a science fiction writer. When I was a kid, science had already saved us from polio and smallpox (they weren’t even a thing when I was growing up), and measles and mumps were under assault. I was born just before John F. Kennedy told us to go to the Moon because it was hard, and we got to the Moon when I was nine, and we all drank Tang (even though it tasted like crap) because the astronauts did and our culture changed because of innovations we needed for that Moon race.
Back then, science and scientists were the somewhat nerdy heroes of our world. Even if they had a dark side. (There were the crazed nuclear nuts of the movies who wanted to bomb us to oblivion. I’m looking at you, Dr. Strangelove.)
We lost that somewhere in the past forty years. I’m not sure what eroded it, but something did. People spout total scientific nonsense and actually get a platform for it. I hadn’t realized how truly toxic that was until I watched maskless idiots put friends and family in danger or claim that they’re not going to get a vaccine because it will.…I don’t know what the rationale is.
All I know is that the more of us who get vaccinated, the more we’re convincing others to get vaccinated. Whether that’s peer pressure or just behavior modeling (we’re not getting sick, nor have we turned into pod people), I don’t know. But it’s a fascinating study in where we are as a people right now.
I was also raised on Star Trek, though, and part of me believed that developing the vaccine was enough. Then, magically, we’d all get it and the end would be here.
I didn’t think about delivery and the time it would take for all of us to get vaccinated and manufacturing and glass vials and hiring enough people to stick us with the vaccine and . . . and . . . and . . .
I’m glad that we have people who think in those practical terms and who, in the U.S anyway, are making this work. I’m watching other countries, some of which were way ahead of us on vaccine mitigation strategies, have trouble with the logistics of vaccine delivery.
We’re fighting a tenacious invisible foe that wants to survive as much as we do. The virus is in a fight for its existence, and it’s doing a pretty good job of mutating and adjusting to whatever we throw at it. Which is why we need to keep on following the science and mask up and get vaccinated when it’s our turn; and get a booster if the scientists decide we need that in the future.
Because, really, we have a path out of this a lot faster than I originally expected. I looked at the 1918 flu timeline after this whole thing started and worried that we’d still be fighting the uncontrolled virus two years from now, or maybe as much as four years from now.
But, here, a year into this damn pandemic, the scientists proved they are nerdy superheroes and they gave us not one, not two, but three vaccines (and maybe more) to fight this thing. They moved heaven and earth to get us here.
It’s up to us to move heaven and earth to get ourselves vaccinated.
If you haven’t done so yet, sign up. You really won’t believe the relief you’ll feel when someone sticks that little needle in your arm. That’s the first time I’ve ever been grateful for a shot.
I suspect I’ll be even more grateful for the second.
I hope this vaccine and the medical treatments begin a new age of science here in the U.S. (and in the world). Because our scientists have just pulled off a miracle.
It’s up to us to make that miracle complete.