It’s no question that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has reached the levels of the 1918 influenza pandemic. Recent data suggests that the COVID-19 deaths have srupassed deaths from the 1918 flu, after all.
But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said there’s a major difference between what happened in 1918 and now, and it does not have to do with population size.
Rather, the current pandemic has a simple tool to slow the spread of COVID-19 — a vaccine. That was something that did not exist during the 1918 pandemic.
- “It’s important that back in 1918, they did not have vaccines,” Fauci told the Takeout. “We now have a highly effective tool to blunt this outbreak and to essentially crush it if we get ourselves in this country and the rest of the world vaccinated. So there’s a similarity in the extraordinary number of deaths in both of these now, historic pandemics, but a really important difference is that we have a tool now that we did not have back then. That’s the reason why it should impress upon everyone who’s listening to us now realize why it’s so important to take advantage of that tool.”
Indeed, the U.S. reached a grim milestone when you compare the two pandemics. The coronavirus has killed more Americans than the flu pandemic did from 1918 to 1919, as I wrote for the Deseret News.
In fact, the 1918-1919 flu pandemic killed about 675,000 people in the United States, per The Guardian. The U.S. has firmly surpassed that number over the last two weeks.
- Of course, the U.S. population was about one-third of the size back then and the flu was concentrated mostly in Europe.
- But the COVID-19 outbreak “is by any measure a colossal tragedy in its own right, especially given the incredible advances in scientific knowledge since then and the failure to take maximum advantage of the vaccines available this time,” according to The Guardian.