The COVID-19 pandemic has officially killed more Americans than the 1918 flu pandemic did, despite all the scientific and medical advances within the last century.
The estimated death toll in the U.S. from the 1918 flu pandemic was roughly 675,000. As of this week, the coronavirus has killed more than that, and the number continues to rise.
“If you would have talked to me in 2019, I would have said I’d be surprised,” epidemiologist Stephen Kissler of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health told CNN. “But if you talked to me in probably April or May 2020, I would say I would not be surprised we’d hit this point.”
Over 100 years ago, the flu pandemic became the deadliest disease in the world, and is officially the deadliest disease of the 20th century. Many scientists were hopeful at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that individuals would learn from the mistakes made in the 20th century, but that has not been the case.
Despite a free and available F.D.A.-approved vaccine, only 54 percent of the U.S. adult population is fully vaccinated, meaning millions of people are still at a high risk of contracting the deadly virus. The latest reports from Johns Hopkins University states that one in 500 Americans have died from COVID-19, as many eligible citizens continue to refuse the vaccine.
While technological advances have been helpful for the scientific community, the Internet has allowed misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine to spread rapidly online. Many experts believe this has been one of the biggest setbacks to combatting the virus.
“The internet can be a double-edged sword,” Kissler said. “It provides us with the opportunity to receive the CDC and the World Health Organization (updates) and to share information much more quickly. But that also means we can spread misinformation quickly as well.”
In 1918, there was seemingly much less misinformation spread as a result to limited ways to communicate. While social media was helpful during lockdowns to stay in touch with loved ones, it also resulted in social media users spreading false information at the touch of their fingertips. This has resulted in an 18-month battle against COVID-19 with no end in sight.
And while there’s no exact measurement for when the pandemic is over, doctors and scientists alike have stated they believe the longer the world waits to get vaccinated, the longer the pandemic will continue on.
“Every vaccination gets us a step closer, every vaccination makes our community, our society a safer, healthier place,” Lauren Ancel Meyers, professor at the University of Texas at Austin and head of the university’s COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, told NPR.