IT looks like the Covid-19 pandemic will be like the February 1918 to April 1920 flu pandemic (the deadliest in the modern era), at least in its two-year duration, with its two waves, the last occurring just when the world thought it was over. Let’s brace for it, and hope it goes away by the latest by March 2022, two years after it emerged here.
Mask-wearing and the other precautions will still have to be suffered. That or die in the horrible feeling you’d have, as victims have reported, when you drown – gasping for air.
At least Covid-19 has taken only – pardon that adverb – 4.2 million lives globally and 28,000 here. The 1918 to 1920 pandemic killed at least 50 million worldwide; 80,000 in the Philippines.
We have one thing going for us though that humanity didn’t have during that 1918 plague: the exponential rise of science, in humanity’s knowledge of nature, which made possible the amazing formulation and mass production of at least six major vaccines, each of a different type. The science of microbiology and epidemiology, in fact, had been given a rocket booster because of the 1918 epidemic as the US and the West poured in vast resources scrambling in panic to find an effective vaccine against that flu, which, however, was discovered only in 1945.
An amazing but hardly quoted measure for humongous increase in scientific knowledge in a matter of several decades is the number of articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, which totaled, believe it or not, to 2.6 million in a single year alone, 2018. How many in the 1920s? Fifty thousand.
The rise in the number of scientific papers, expected or not, is partly due to the fact that two countries deemed backward even as late as the mid-1900s have become world leaders in science. China in 2000 produced only 53,064 scientific articles; by 2018 it had 528,262, beating the US, which had just 422,808 papers. The other country is India, which published only 22,000 articles in 2000; in 2018 it had 135,788, the third biggest producer of scientific knowledge in the world.
Needless to say, this partly explains why China, the US and India have developed and produced their own vaccines.
For us ordinary folks, it is really difficult to comprehend the tremendous expansion in scientific knowledge just in the past two centuries. We were taught in school that atoms had only three particles, now state-of-the-art physics tells us there are 36.
This is what “anti-vaxxers,” even in the supposedly most rational, science-oriented country in the world, the US, miss.
I was surprised a British acquaintance of mine, well educated, has refused to be vaccinated.
His explanation was that he was a farmer before back in the UK, and the vaccines injected into his cows and sheep, as it was explained to him, took 10 years to develop. As far as he knows, scientists worked on developing AstraZeneca, Moderna and Sinovac only when the genetic sequence of Covid-19 was determined early last year. But he left the UK 20 years ago.
The pandemic is foremost a science problem, how a natural phenomenon, a virus destructive to the human body and which is very communicable, can be killed and stopped spreading. While the current US and European vaccines seem to be hitting some obstacle in the form of the so-called Delta variant, there is philosophically, no inherent dead-end in biology – as there may be, for example, in astronomy since humanity’s instruments for the study of this subject is so limited.
The huge problem of course, as Marxist theory long ago explained, is that we live not in an ideal world in which a deity has put everyone in his right place and where human rationality is supreme, but in one in which scarce resources has been unequally distributed by capitalism, and its logical development, imperialism.
Until the emergence of China (and to a much lower level, India) in this century as a scientific power, the US and a few European countries – essentially the former colonial and imperialist powers – have monopolized scientific knowledge and resources (e.g., laboratories and scientific staff’s salaries) practically in the way they monopolized the world’s natural resources in the past centuries.
The reality is that the US and the West produce and control the vast supply of vaccines which if one really thinks about it should be the property of humanity, as its development is the result of thousands of years of scientific inquiry, by thousands of humans.
They’ve declared they’re not willing to share it – save for a token amount the NGO-driven, internationally funded Vaccine Alliance will allocate to the peon nations of the world – as long as they haven’t vanquished Covid-19 in their countries.
Such a policy is emerging as scientifically wrong with the of so-called Delta variant spreading to the US even if nearly a half of its population have been vaccinated. Delta was first detected in India: Could the virus have mutated because it lived in such a huge number of hosts (20 million in India last May) and thereby had time to mutate to make itself more efficient in its survival?
While millions would continue to die or suffer in hell-on-earth conditions, the US and British vaccine inventors have declared that they cannot allow other countries to produce these, claiming this would weaken innovation in their industry, which has been its engine.
This is sheer callousness in the face of humanity’s suffering, as these countries had been in the era when they exploited half of the earth’s population.
The pandemic would be a boon for the four main US and British vaccine producers (and of course, but to a limited extent, the Chinese, Russian and Indian laboratories). Can you imagine how much these companies would make selling vaccines just to half of the world’s current 7.6 billion population, which would be a captive market? In a few years’ time, they’d probably be buying Amazon and Google.
Yet they are unwilling to forgo a dollar of their profits to save humanity. And it’s every country for itself, the US and the West are telling us.
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