The Vaccine Has a Serious Side Effect—A Positive One

The Vaccine Has a Serious Side Effect—A Positive One

It could make 2021 the year Americans rediscover science.

As the epically awful year 2020 limps toward an end, it can be hard to find reasons to hope 2021 will be that much better. Especially if you’re reading this with bleary eyes between Zoom calls, wondering what your kid is pounding on in the hallway.

Yes, the United States will finally get a new president next year. But given the likelihood that Congress will remain divided, that outgoing President Donald Trump will continue to raise hell from the sidelines, and that the Republican Party will continue to scorn democracy and ignore Americans’ well-being, the odds that the Biden administration will manage do enough, fast enough, to address the country’s urgent crises seem painfully long.

What about the COVID-19 vaccine and the economic recovery it promises? Yes, those are coming—but not anytime soon (unless you’re a front-line health care worker). The United States won’t achieve the kind of widespread immunity it needs to start reopening until the late spring or summer—by which point, U.S. deaths from COVID-19 will likely have exceeded 500,000. And in the words of Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, things won’t “really turn … around” until the end of next year. Some industries will take even longer to recover; travel, for example, is not expected to reach pre-pandemic levels until 2024.