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A Vaccine for All the Plagues

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Jorge's career has journeyed through organic chemistry and radiochemistry, plant physiology, and cancer research.

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Even birds can teach us something. Passenger pigeons used to form spectacular, boisterous clouds that extended for miles—that was, until the 1800s. Shortly after, we annihilated them.

For the passenger pigeons, we were the plague. It did not help that the birds kept coming back in swarms to grain traps and popular hunting grounds. Like most animal species, the pigeons lived their present, used immediate opportunities, clung to the moment. Unable to learn from mistakes and prepare for posterity, they did not plan.

We do. Human's forged their intelligence planning. Civilizations flourished on their capacity to project ever farther into the future. We train children and adults to plan for life and the life of their young through a methodical and universal system. A system that empowers, fosters, protects: Education.

Why Didn't We Learn From Our Mistakes?

Education enabled not only predicting, but knowing with the certainty of a sunset that a pandemic could darken our days. In the fourteenth century, the infamous Black Death eradicated a third of the Eurasian population. Nearly a century ago, the Spanish flu killed tens of millions. The death toll during another flu, the1968's, was nearly a million and between pandemics and multinational epidemics we had five within the last two decades. Five. Hundreds of scientific studies, renowned epidemiologists and public figures warned that we are vulnerable. Nations, though, frozen like deer in front of oncoming headlights, did not have a comprehensive plan. Or any plan. In contrast to the pigeons, we did have the awareness, the technical resources and the societal structure to be armed for the next pandemic blow. But we weren't. Why?

Why previous plagues did not prompt us to redraft epidemiological policies? Organize professional emergency crews? spur funding for research? Why, like the pigeons, we keep falling in the trap?

In a plea for the immediacy of economic growth, eclipsed by instant rewards, and with a short sight of the future, policy-makers ignored the ravage of previous crises and educated, science-based warnings. An apathy further aggravated by the fact that former plagues have been regional or limited to the poor or particular sectors of the population. COVID-19, however, in contrast to other plagues, has rattled the entirety of the globe and all social groups.

Perhaps COVID-19 Can Teach Us Something

The pandemic is showing that science does matter. That an evidence-based pre-emptive plan and basic public collaboration could dwarf natural or man-made adverse events. Measures that must be executed not only by government or institutional actions but by the participation of all the population. The foundation of this attitude is education.

A McGill study and data from Gallup.com, a global analytics firm, show that educated people are more likely to wear masks, an elemental act that, according to scientists from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, could have saved dozens of thousands of lives. The mask refusal, though, is only the most visible element of the negligence: gatherings, parties, and vaccine denial are also part of the blindness. It is not a coincidence that ten out of the thirteen countries that handled the virus more effectively according to Bloomberg's COVID-19 resilience index are within the Worldpopulationreview.com list of top eleven most educated nations in the world. The USA and the UK aren't in either group.

As essential as formal education is, information during the onset and course of epidemics is vital. Following commercialistic practices however, the media these days serves the most sensationalistic events of the day rather than instructing. For example, in Google News, there are ten times more hits about the Boston doctor that had an allergic reaction to the Moderna vaccine than about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines. Shockingly, the general population receives nearly no communications on how the new generation of RNA vaccines, such as Moderna's and Pfizer's, work and why they can be developed in a shorter time and with safer standards than vaccines produced with century-old procedures.

Hence, the most important lesson from COVID-19 is the urgency to surmount another, more tragic pandemic: Ignorance. Epitomized by the folks that support baseless conspiracy guff, neglect factual evidence, disdain science, and vote for and stand by irrational, ludicrous leaders.

Unlike the passenger pigeons, we could not only survive but emerge more resourceful from the crises. The pandemic's slap could drive changes substantial enough in our outlooks to winning next pandemics, the climate change race, or other adversities. We could rise with new wings, that is, if we educate the public.

References

  1. https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/most-educated-countries
  2. https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/covid-resilience-ranking/
  3. https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/covid-19-health/why-some-people-choose-not-wear-mas
  4. https://news.gallup.com/poll/315590/americans-face-mask-usage-varies-greatly-demographics.aspx
  5. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-1132-9

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.