The Woes of 2020 Won’t Just Disappear: A Look Into 2021

Charlie Bonney, Managing Editor

2020 has been a terrible year, but 2020’s worst problem will last long into 2021. The coronavirus has been killing thousands of people everyday across the world and has shown no signs of stopping. At this point, a global vaccination campaign seems to be the only way to emerge from this desperate time.

Fortunately, there is hope on the horizon, but it does not seem as though a return to normal is imminent. The first COVID-19 vaccines have begun distribution in the United Kingdom and the United States, but it will take time until enough people are vaccinated for life to return to relative normalcy. In an interview on CNN, Dr. Anthony Fauci , America’s leading doctor on infectious diseases, cautioned the American people saying the vaccination process is “not going to be a light switch. We’re not going to turn it on and off, going from where we are to completely normal.” His words of warning reflect a trend among health professionals who are anticipating that masks will be necessary at least until next fall, even as people ease back into their pre-pandemic lives. 

The British government purchased and approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at record-breaking speed. The first demographic to be vaccinated, residents and staff at nursing homes, are making history in Britain as the first people to join the global vaccination effort. Although some may already be receiving their vaccines, most people in the UK and around the world will have to wait until 2021. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also approved the Pfizer vaccine in early December with the approval of the Moderna occurring in the final weeks of the month.

The UK was the first country to approve Pfizer’s vaccine, while Canada and the US quickly followed suit. Russia has also approved their own vaccine, Sputnik V, although health professionals are skeptical about its effectiveness after an approval process that appeared rushed. 

The battle to create and distribute an effective vaccine is just the beginning for the FDA and the scientists working to find a solution.”

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker recently released the Commonwealth’s plan for vaccine distribution. The plan includes three stages: the first stage will enable healthcare workers, residents in nursing homes, people in Massachusetts prisons, among others, to receive the vaccine. The second stage will provide the vaccine to essential workers (including teachers), people over the age of 65, and people with underlying health conditions. The final stage will make the vaccine available to the rest of the population. The stages are meant to start in December, February, and April, respectively. This plan might provide a sense of hope, but in such an unprecedented situation, it is impossible to say if everything will run according to plan. 

The battle to create and distribute an effective vaccine is just the beginning for the FDA and the scientists working to find a solution. The anti-vaccination movement, which was prominent even before the coronavirus, will undoubtedly be a prominent voice this spring. Along with the anti-vaccination movement, there is also a more widespread, less aggressive, skepticism of the vaccine. This is derived from a lack of trust in the government and the process that went into the creation of the vaccine. Experts have estimated that 75% of the population would need to be vaccinated in order to end the pandemic, but in Massachusetts only 37% of residents want to get vaccinated as soon as possible. A further 47% of people are willing to receive the vaccine once they know others who have gotten the jab. This seems sufficient, but there is a concern that any negative reactions, however minor, will exacerbate the suspicion of the vaccine. Already, people in the UK who have received the vaccine have reported suspected side effects. It is important to note that many vaccines do have a risk of allergic reactions, but experts say that there is no real cause for concern yet. 

Despite all the hope surrounding the new vaccines, the pandemic is still killing Americans and people around the world. Health experts warn Americans against becoming complacent, as cases and deaths continue to spike. Experts at the University of Washington predict that the death count could climb as high as half a million by March. To lose this many lives when the end of this dark time is so near would be devastating. That is why health experts are stressing that the pandemic is not over yet and people will have to remain vigilant and social distance for many more months.