The Power of Human Ingenuity
By: Aiden Zhou.
In modern times of upheaval and unrest, there is rarely a topic that persists in conversation. But nowadays COVID-19, the pandemic that has swept the world and drilled previously unfamiliar words and phrases such as “quarantine” and “social distancing” deep into our minds, seems to sneak up on us every night at the dinner table. Like a surgeon’s precise scalpel, COVID has dug up and revealed countless societal infections: from wealth inequality to lack of pandemic preparation, from dangerously radical political divisions to distrust of mainstream media. But even amongst these depressive revelations that the pandemic has given us, humanity’s ability to unite and adapt in times of universal peril is the silver lining that perpetually stands out to me.
As John Cooke, a medical director at the Houston Methodist Hospital said, “One of the biggest lessons we've learned from COVID is that the scientific community working together can do some pretty amazing things.” In regular situations, it takes 5-15 years to design a vaccine - even the mumps vaccine, previously the fastest ever created, took 4 years to develop. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, on the other hand, not only took less than a year to create, but also revolutionized medicine through the successful use of mRNA technology. This unprecedented achievement was only possible through worldwide collaboration and “the benefits … of working across borders, cultures and disciplines”. (Nature, June 2021) A campaign led by the WHO and supported by over 100 countries to loosen intellectual property laws with regard to COVID-19 vaccines has been integral to making such team-based scientific work possible.
Regular people like you and I have also come together and sacrificed our freedom for the greater good. It’s stunning to me how quickly so many have adapted to the difficulties of isolation - wearing masks in public is now more of an instinct than a chore, online classes and meetings on Zoom have become routine. Even businesses and restaurants have adjusted their models to fit the new reality of empty stores and DoorDash! COVID-19 has undoubtedly brought immense stress and uncertainty into our lives, but humanity has always made the best of bad situations, and I’m sure that our society will come through this pandemic scarred, but stronger.