This time of year is all about miracles. Of course, for the world’s 2.2 billion Christians, this is the week to celebrate the birth of Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem. Jews just ended their celebration of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.
It was in the second century B.C. when Jewish forces recaptured Jerusalem from the Greeks and Syrians. After cleansing the great Second Temple of all vestiges of the enemy, the Jewish leaders declared a festival of celebration, but there was only enough oil in a jar to light a lamp for one night. Miraculously, that oil lasted for eight days.
As we celebrate those miracles of old, made fresh each and every day more than 2,000 years later, we should be aware that miracles continue to happen all around us.
Just this past week, we rejoiced in the approval and arrival of the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19. After almost 10 months of the coronavirus pandemic, the end may not have been in sight, but it is far closer than many of us believed possible. Later Friday brought word that a second vaccine, developed by Moderna, has been approved for use and should begin rolling out to all of America on Monday.
While vaccines tend to be miracles by their very nature, the rapid development of two — with more on the way — vaccines for COVID-19 is truly miraculous.
Influenza had been around a long time when the 1918 “Spanish flu” pandemic — it apparently really started at Camp Leonard Wood in Missouri — swept the world, claiming some 50 million lives, including some 675,000 in the United States.
By the early 1930s, the influenza virus was discovered, and work began on a vaccine. Success was reached in the early years of World War II, and the first flu vaccine was approved for use by the military in 1945. In 1946, the first flu vaccine was approved for civilian use. Because different strains of flu evolve each year, scientists must redevelop a vaccine based on what they believe will be the strain that will emerge that year. Some years, they are on the money; other years — well, not so much.
It took longer for a polio vaccine to be created. Dr. Jonas Salk — who worked first on a flu vaccine — and others began work in earnest in the early 1930s, but it wasn’t until 1953 that Salk introduced his polio vaccine.
The flu and the polio vaccines weren’t the first to be developed. By 1900, there were vaccines for the plague, smallpox, rabies, cholera and typhoid — viruses that at one time killed millions of people around the world. The development of the vaccines for those illnesses took years and years.
But in 2020, the year of the novel coronavirus pandemic, we had effective vaccines within a few months.
And that truly is a miracle — and the people who developed them can be described best as miracle workers. We stand in awe of the scientists around the world who dedicated countless hours to rush effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines to fruition. Thousands of volunteers willingly submitted to blind testing of the different vaccines — half receiving the vaccine and half receiving placebos.
And while we thank all of them, we must not forget the frontline health care workers who have labored mightily to help people stricken with COVID-19. More than 1,700 of those workers have died from the coronavirus.
The miracle of the new vaccines against COVID-19 will be real only if Americans take the vaccine.
Our leading medial experts say it will take some 70% of us to be vaccinated before the novel coronavirus can be vanquished. Many people have indicated they will not be inoculated, and that is a shame. The vaccine not only could save their life, but also the lives of everyone around them.
Vice President Mike Pence and Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams were inoculated with the Pfizer vaccine early Friday as a show of support for the vaccine. President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will receive the vaccine this week, and President Donald J. Trump will be vaccinated soon.
Please join them when the vaccines are available for everyone.
Until then, be sure to wear a mask in public and practice social distancing. You’ll help protect not only yourself, but those around you.
As we celebrate miracles old and new, we at The Eagle wish a merry and wonderful Christmas to everyone