The announcement by Pfizer and BioNTech that their COVID-19 vaccine trials have tallied a 90% success rate comes as a second wave of the virus is hitting not only public health, but the public psyche.
PARIS — It's too early to proclaim victory. But it's not too late to restore hope.
In a world overrun with pessimism and skepticism, one which often pays far too much attention to conspiracy theorists who doubt science and bank on worst-case scenarios, Pfizer's announcement of a promising new vaccine does more than simply boost the stock market. The encouraging result of this anti-COVID-19 drug, developed with the German biotech company BioNtech, is also an opportunity to remind us that science is a powerful weapon for the benefit of humankind.
Even before the pandemic struck the planet, society was facing major challenges. How can we fight against the apparent inevitability of global warming? How can we feed 9 billion people in the future without further destroying the environment? How can we find the energy sources that allow us to produce, light, heat, and travel without using fossil fuels?
The time for questions and the time of answers are not the same
While there is a near-global consensus on the world's problems, we are completely at odds when it comes to potential solutions. The most defeatist among us believe that it is already too late, that the human race has dug its own grave, and that we are sprinting toward our doom. The most optimistic want to believe that human ingenuity will always allow us to overcome any situation by coming up with new solutions. Others, more radical, claim that there is no silver bullet and that we ought to simply reject consumerism and practice a new form of eugenics.
The truth is that the time it takes to pose questions and the time to find the answers are not the same. To become aware of a problem and then to find a solution takes months, even years, and lost time cannot be fully recovered. But even in our society of permanent flip-flopping, debates in which all arguments are the same, scientific innovation"s inability to always offer an immediate solution does not mean we should give up on it.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, those who are convinced that the coronavirus is nothing more than one big manipulation — a disease spread by laboratories in a hurry to line their pockets, or a gigantic plot hatched by some all-powerful group — have generated considerable media attention. Taking advantage of the echo chamber provided by social networks, they have made the whole world doubt itself. And though now's not the time to bask in blissful optimism, we can still acknowledge that the worst is not necessarily yet to come.