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Coronavirus and the light at the end of the tunnel

With 269,318 deaths in America and 1.43 deaths worldwide from COVID-19, it is again time to gain perspective, especially as 2020 comes to an end.

A patient receiving a vaccine. Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90.
A patient receiving a vaccine. Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Joseph Frager
Dr. Joseph Frager is a lifelong activist and physician. He is chairman of Israel advocacy for the Rabbinical Alliance of America, chairman of the executive committee of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim and executive vice president of the Israel Heritage Foundation.

When this terrible pandemic is over, every human being on the planet should recite the Jewish hagomel prayer for surviving life-threatening situations: “Blessed are you, Lord our God, king of the universe, who bestows good things upon the unworthy, and has bestowed upon me every goodness.”

With 269,318 deaths in America and 1.43 million deaths worldwide from COVID-19, it is again time to gain perspective, especially as 2020 comes to an end.

As a physician, I have tried with every ounce of my being to fight this dreadful disease. My colleagues have done the same. One of my mentors and the man responsible for my first position at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx in 1980 was Dr. Steve Kamholz, who later became chairman of medicine at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. He passed away in June, at the age of 72, after contracting the coronavirus.

Another colleague of mine at Montefiore Medical Center, Dr. James Goodrich—who was chairman of the pediatric neurosurgery department and famous for separating conjoined twins whose brains were connected (in 2016)—passed away from COVID-19 earlier this year. I have lost many dear friends (all of blessed memory) from coronavirus, including philanthropist Hy Arbessfeld, Judge Noach Dear and former New York Police Department chief Robert Abraham.

As for the benefit of wearing masks, on March 3, when the CDC was not recommending them, I called for their use in an article titled “Thoughts on Coronavirus-COVID-19.”

I did not know how the public would react, even though it made perfect sense. In the early days of the pandemic, there were not that many physicians going public with their views. Now it is a different story.

Meanwhile, it has saved countless lives and is helping with economic recovery in some places (see my article “COVID-19: Getting back on our feet”).

In addition, I helped get convalescent serum use off the ground. The work by Rabbi Mordechai Serle on the subject is legendary. I was glad to be of some assistance. I tried very hard to get “Big Pharma” to come up with enough vaccines for every American, and everybody else, at the very beginning of the vaccination process. I was not successful.

As great an achievement as Pfizer’s pronouncement that it will have 40 million doses ready to go soon, there is no reason that 330 million vaccinations could not be ready at the time of the initial launch. I warned that this might happen. (See: “The race is on for The SARS-Cov2 vaccine” and “COVID-19, vaccines and the U.S. Election”)

The C1 Platform of Dyadic could have been utilized to enable enough vaccine for the whole country from the get-go. As great a triumph as the vaccines indeed are, it could have been even greater if everyone were able to get vaccinated at the same time.

The Trump administration deserves credit for “Operation Warp Speed.” No one has developed a vaccine faster. It is a tremendous achievement that should not be minimized.

It also has significant ramifications for the future as it will set in motion the pathway for fighting pandemics in the years to come. And it will encourage and incentivize vaccine development against a host of viruses, including Ebola, HIV, Zika and West Nile.

A lot was learned in the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. Hopefully, vaccine technology is now poised to fight many other diseases, including malaria, tuberculosis and cancer.

Not all of my colleagues in the medical field were so enthusiastic about any of the above. But what looked very bleak in April has made way for a light at the end of the long tunnel.

Dr. Joseph Frager is first vice president of the National Council of Young Israel.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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