2021: A New World
Pandemics, diagnostics, vaccines – a “normal” no one could have predicted this time last year
Michael Schubert | | Opinion
In the spring of 2020, I was engaged in online science outreach (somewhat presciently, as it turned out!). I hosted regular science chats with school-aged children, fielding questions on everything from “how can a spider bite give you superpowers?” to “how can we cure cancer?”
As March rolled on, though, the questions changed. “What is the pandemic?” “Do we have a cure for the coronavirus?” “Can people die from the coronavirus?” Tough questions to answer for any crowd – let alone schoolchildren.
And the answers to those questions changed, too. Initially, there was a lot of reassurance. The phrase “like a bad cold or a flu” made frequent appearances. Unfortunately, for nearly two million people that answer has proved fatally wrong – and many more suffer long-term consequences.
This is the “new normal” we move into in 2021 – a world in which we limit our contact with others, wear masks when we venture beyond our thresholds, wash and sanitize our hands every time we touch something unfamiliar, and anxiously track reports on vaccine candidates.
With time, answers to some of our more serious questions have emerged.
Will faster, easier, more accurate diagnostics give us an edge? Yes.
Will a vaccine (whether those already being rolled out or those next in line) change the world? Undoubtedly.
Will we return to our “old normal?” Only time will tell – but the tremendous efforts of scientific, medical, and pharmaceutical professionals globally have not gone unnoticed. As results and regulatory approvals roll in, we’ll slowly see the world to come take shape – but it can only happen with appropriate oversight, open conversation, and a culture of shared scientific success. And it will be the diagnostic professionals who take center stage.
The big question now is: are you ready for the new world?