COVID-19’s destructive waves have imposed its own brand of dread on humanity in the twenty-first century, leaving majority wondering when the pandemic will come to an end.
Allan Brandt, a Harvard University historian of science and medicine says that they, the historians of medicine tend to think of pandemics and epidemics as episodic. The world is in the COVID-19 era, not the COVID-19 catastrophe, he said. There will be numerous significant and long-lasting changes.
One will not look at the past and say that it was a time, but it is the past. We will be coping with many of the consequences of COVID-19 for decades, if not centuries, he explained.
The pandemic appeared to be nearing its end, especially in the months before the delta variant became dominant.
When the vaccines first came out and when we started getting jabbed in our own arms, so many of us felt physically and emotionally altered, Dr. Jeremy Greene, a medical historian at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said. We were determined to translate the Covid-19 vaccine shots as ‘the pandemic has finished for ourselves,’ but it was a wilful delusion, he added.
According to Frank Snowden, a Yale University historian of medicine, declaring the end of a pandemic is difficult. It is a historical lesson that was often forgotten.
Even when physical disease, as defined by illness and mortality, has diminished significantly, it might not be over. It is possible that it would persist when the economy heals and life returns to normalcy. The psychological trauma of living in constant fear of serious disease, loneliness and painful deaths takes a long time to erase, he explained.
Some diseases, such as the flu of 1918, subsided. Others, like as the bubonic plague, lingered, smouldering. HIV is still present, but there are medications to prevent and treat it. In each case, the anguish endured by those impacted long after the immediate threat of illness and death had passed.
If nothing else, the COVID-19 virus has humbled experts who previously confidently projected its path, ignoring history’s lessons.
What we are experiencing now is a new cycle of collective dismay, Greene said, referring to dismay caused by frustration with the virus’s inability to be controlled, rage from the vaccinated at those who refuse to get the shots and disillusionment that effective vaccines have not yet helped life to return to normal.
Pandemics alter people’s perceptions of time, regardless of when or how they end. As the pandemic progresses, days blend into one another, and time appears to blur and slow down without any forward momentum.
Strong anti-science forces have hampered public health in previous pandemics, as they do today.
Snowden claims that as soon as Edward Jenner developed the first smallpox vaccine in 1798, advertisements appeared in Britain depicting vaccinated persons sprouting horns and hooves.
The anti-vaccine movement was the largest single movement in 19th-century Britain, he continued. As the vaccination sceptics persisted, illnesses that should have been eradicated, continued to exist.
The rise of social media, which amplifies disagreements and lies in a really new way is the difference between vaccination sceptics and pandemic misinformation then and now, historians explained.
There were conspiracy theories and a lot of misinformation about HIV but it never had a broadcast system like COVID-19 pandemic has, Brandt said.
Other pandemics, like this one, have been hampered by what Snowden refers to as ‘overweening hubris’ or arrogant certainty of experts that adds to the miseries of trying to figure out how and when it will go away.
No one is never cured, it is always in the background, Jonathan Moreno, a historian of science and medicine at the University of Pennsylvania stated.