18 April 2020

Lessons to Learn

There are two very broad takeaways that it seems to me we as a society must learn from this pandemic. In addition to a whole host of other things that I hope it motivates us to reform. But here are the two that it seems to me we need to be talking about NOW, including in the context of this year's presidential and Congressional elections.

1. We have spent trillions and vast human effort and lives countering the HUMAN threat. Defense and counterterrorism. Some of this, such as aircraft carriers and far more ballistic missiles than could ever be used in any imaginable survivable conflict, are obsolescent and of dubious worth. But we balk at spending a few hundred million dollars at really being prepared for microbial attacks. Read the article on Tony Fauci in the New Yorker. We could probably develop a universal flu vaccine, that would work against any flu virus. It would cost more than we've ever spent on a vaccine. But, seriously? Consider what really matters to people. There is promising research that could even lead to a molecular understanding of viruses that might lead to almost Star Trek like responsiveness. A viral platform vaccine that you just tag in the specific genome and you have an effective vaccine within days, with the basic safety already pretested. And on the diplomatic front, we could do far more to make sure that pathogens are not free to pass from animals to humans. The Chinese should face sanctions, for example, if they don't eliminate wet markets once and for all. To sum it up, FAR MORE effort on public health security is the takeaway.

2. The need for universal health care and systematic and universal preparedness to deal with threats to human health. If there is nothing we learn from this pandemic else from this, let it be that the time has come to recognize robust, high standard health care as a right of all citizens and a global goal for all of humanity.

I will have more bloviation on "learning lessons from this" later (fair warning, but anyone not of a mind to think about these things won't read this far anyway LOL).


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