Perhaps it is appropriate, as we come to the end of what has been a dark year, one filled with illness and loss and uncertainty, that a light has begun to flicker brightly on the horizon.
While many will certainly be happy to put 2020 behind them, the change of dates does nothing. There is no storybook magic that is released when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, with no way to distinguish between 2020 and 2021 in that moment other than the calendar.
But there is legitimate reason to believe that the new year will be significantly better than this past one. That’s because, beginning now, some of the most vulnerable amongst us are preparing to receive the first shot of their COVID-19 vaccine. They represent the beginning of the end. They are the light at the end of the tunnel.
Over the next several weeks, millions of Americans, including thousands here in Connecticut, will be vaccinated. While the process will require two shots, spread apart by 21 days, according to Chesprocott Health Director Maura Esposito, it will still mean that, by the middle part of January, and certainly as we go deeper into the winter, a large swath of Americans, and a majority of those most likely to experience the worst symptoms of the disease, will be made safe.
This isn’t just good news; it’s miraculous. It is a testament to the brilliance of so many in the scientific community who were able to produce different vaccines, all of which appear extremely effective in protecting against the health impacts of COVID-19. It’s a testament to the hard work of those who created these treatments — men and women who doubtlessly spent hours upon hours testing and retesting to ensure that what they were producing would work.
And it’s a testament to how, when the human mind puts its considerable powers to focus on one singular achievement, it can accomplish what seems the impossible.
Ponder for a moment that, when the pandemic first hit, many of the most experienced experts in the world warned not to put all of one’s hopes on vaccines. Few have ever come to market in less than five years, and even assuming the vast amount of money and brainpower being thrown at the problem would result in a much quicker timeline, 18 months for a working vaccine was still deemed optimistic.
But here we are, less than 12 months since COVID-19 arrived at our shores, and not one, but multiple vaccines are or will shortly be available to the public. By the time we mark the one-year anniversary of COVID lockdowns, when the public was essentially put into economic and societal hibernation as a way to stop the spread of the disease — a hibernation from which we have yet to emerge — millions upon millions will have already received their doses.
There remains a lot of work to be done. When distributing vaccines on such a massive scale, there are bound to be problems. And considering universal access to them isn’t expected until June of next year, we’ll be dealing with the impact of the virus for some months yet to come.
However, the light is visible now. The end can actually be seen. We don’t need to wonder how much longer all of this will last. We know the clock is ticking on COVID.
When we finally emerge from the pandemic, there will be a lot of people to thank, with the doctors and nurses who treated patients throughout the crisis first on the list. We will also owe a “thank you” to everyone who didn’t have the luxury of staying home during this time — people who went to work every day and put in long hours in order to ensure that some of our basic (and not-so-basic) needs were met. Yet, when we’re handing out thank you’s, make sure to reserve several for the men and women who made this vaccine possible.