The news that three potential Covid-19 vaccines might soon be available — an incredible scientific and technological achievement in so short a time, making Pfizer, Moderna or Astra Zeneca household names in the process and triggering discussions on the logistics of the distribution of the vaccines— has given the world hope that within a few months, we might be able to see some sort of return to normality. Somehow, it feels like seeing light at the end of this dark tunnel that 2020 has put us through.
That said, even though some companies have already submitted requests for the emergency use approval of their COVID-19 vaccine and aim to start distributing it in December, we need to hold our horses and take it easy. Regardless of what you may think, vaccines will not save us from the current surge in disease. They may solve our problems down the road, but we are still in the midst of a global pandemic that shows no signs of abating, and the spread of which can only be slowed through drastically reducing our contact with each other. Which makes all this talk of “saving Christmas” or “the Thanksgiving break” highly misleading at best, and irresponsible at worst.
In the United States, despite repeated warnings from the health authorities, airlines say bookings between now and the start of the festive season are booming. As is the case with Christmas in many countries, Thanksgiving is a deeply rooted tradition: there are many people who have never spent that day without their family. But lest we forget, these kinds of family celebrations are one of the most effective ways to spread the virus: families systematically abandon all precautions, it is impossible to maintain social distancing, and no one, absolutely no one, keeps their mask on when they are in an enclosed space with their family, much less when they are eating and drinking. Given that we are talking about events organized around the dining room table and which, because of the winter weather, force us to stay indoors most of the time, the infection rate increases almost immediately.
To abandon or relax precautions now, simply because “the vaccines are coming” makes no sense. They still have to be approved by the health authorities, complex logistics have to be organized, and there is also the fight against disinformation. If a significant part of society refuses to be vaccinated, we will only be creating reservoirs for the virus and potentially prolonging the problem. The responsibility for stopping disinformation lies with everyone: the media, citizens, companies and institutions.
Besides that, these vaccines require a complex logistics and distribution process and a two-phase inoculation that make things even more complicated. Then there is the issue of who gets inoculated first. If we further hinder the possible solutions that science and technology can provide with demented conspiracy theories that could endanger a fast, global and effective vaccination campaign, we will never get out of this mess.
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In short, there is still a long way to go on this issue. Vaccine announcements or not, let’s not be frivolous and instead, learn to prioritize. Christmas or Thanksgiving can be wonderful occasions, traditional, a chance to be with loved ones, whatever. But to risk contracting a dangerous disease whose side effects are still largely unknown and that can kill, when we already have vaccines in sight, makes no sense at all. Just be patient.
So let’s accept that 2020 has been a crappy year and that for the foreseeable future we’re going to have a crappy Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Chinese New Year, Ramadan, etc. too. Let’s not be irresponsible and, instead, postpone the celebrations for when we can enjoy them responsibly and as unconditionally happy as they should be enjoyed.