Reasons abound as to why 2020 has been an unusually trying year. Arguably, the biggest reason, the one that so many other challenges cascade from, is the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s absolutely dominated the life of every single person on the planet this calendar year. If you’d told me back in May that by the end of the year, I would be striking a hopeful tone I would have stared at you in disbelief is an understatement. Yet, here I am. Hopeful. Even bordering on optimistic. At the end of arguably the most challenging year during my lifetime, you might be asking – why and how could I possibly be feeling this way?
During this year, we’ve learned a lot about what we as a state, nation, and global community are capable of. Personally, I can’t think of a time when I’ve seen science advance this quickly. It’s been truly incredible to see what we humans are capable of when we collectively pool our efforts and resources to solve a problem. Scientists and researchers from around the world are collaborating and brainstorming,1 which has led to such rapid progress. We’ve learned so much about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, this year and we’re learning more every day. Arguably, the largest bright spot is that we have multiple very promising vaccine candidates concluding Phase 3 trials. The vaccine developed by Moderna has displayed an efficacy rate of 94.5%.2 That’s HUGE! If that number holds, that would make it more effective at preventing COVID-19 than the MMR vaccine is at preventing measles or mumps infections.3 It would also make it more effective than the DTaP vaccine is at preventing pertussis (whooping cough).4 And, as I mentioned before, this isn’t the only promising vaccine candidate. Pfizer announced that their vaccine candidate was around a 95% efficacy rate as well.5 Even MORE good news, both vaccines could have millions of people with their first dose BY THE END OF THE YEAR. Let me repeat that in case it didn’t sink in: we may see millions of people who have started their vaccine regimen before the calendar rolls into 2021. It’s difficult to overstate just how enormous this is. This has global impacts. You can see why I am feeling hopeful… and yes, even optimistic.
The year of 2020 has been filled with misinformation, panic, despair, loss, and a whole host of other negative emotions and events. But honestly, I for one will look back on this year and reflect on just how amazing it is that a brand new virus could be identified, genetically mapped, surveillance systems including testing created, treatments discovered, and vaccines developed. It’s been exactly one year as of the date of this writing (mid-November 2020) since the virus first was recorded to have made the jump into humans. We’ve accomplished so much in that time. More than I ever would have guessed. Combating this virus really has been an act of solidarity and collaboration on a global scale and we’ve risen to the challenge. That’s not to say that we haven’t experienced loss. We have. We’ve experienced more loss than we should have. We’ve experienced more collective hardship as a species this year than I can ever remember. But the good news is that we may see light at the end of this extremely long and dark tunnel. In order to get there though, we need to remain patient and vigilant. Relief is coming. But until then we must continue good public health practices: wear a mask, remain physically distant, and wash your hands. And remember, as Thomas Fuller said, “the darkest hour is just before the dawn”.6 Things are really bad right now, but there is hope. I’m clinging hard to it. I think you should too.
- Lovett, Laura. Cross-Border Collaborations Lead to Data Sharing Efforts During COVID-19. October 26, 2020. Mobi Health News. Global Edition. https://www.mobihealthnews.com/news/cross-border-collaborations-lead-data-sharing-efforts-during-covid-19
- National Institutes of Health. News Releases. Promising Interim Results from Clinical Trial of NIH-Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine. November 16, 2020. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/promising-interim-results-clinical-trial-nih-moderna-covid-19-vaccine
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines and Preventable Diseases. Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/mmr/public/index.html#:~:text=One%20dose%20of%20MMR%20vaccine%20is%2093%25%20effective%20against%20measles,(weakened)%20live%20virus%20vaccine
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pertussis (Whooping Cough). Pertussis Frequently Asked Questions. https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/faqs.html#:~:text=In%20general%2C%20DTaP%20vaccines%20are,effectiveness%20in%20each%20following%20year
- Pfizer. News. Pfizer and Biontech Conclude Phase 3 Study of COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate, Meeting All Primary Efficacy Endpoints. November 18, 2020. https://www.pfizer.com/news/press-release/press-release-detail/pfizer-and-biontech-conclude-phase-3-study-covid-19-vaccine
- The Phrase Finder. Meanings. https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/darkest-hour-is-just-before-the-dawn.html