20 Million Years Lost

20 Million Years Lost

How much is 20 Million years? I know I can’t wrap my head around that much time. It’s only been 2,021 years since the time of Jesus.


But according to an article published in the journal Nature, if we stop counting the number of pandemic related deaths in 2020 and start counting the number of years of life that people would have lived had their lives not been cut short by a pandemic, those people would have been expected to live a combined 20+ million years longer. Of those, 4 million years of life were lost in 2020 in the United States alone.


Think how much they could have done. How much they could have accomplished. How much they could have lived and loved in 20 million years of combined time. Mind boggling isn’t it!


You don’t get those kinds of numbers if everyone that died was really old. According to the Nature article, about a third of those who died were under the age of 55.


Now it is true that older folks are at greater risk than younger ones, but according to a new article from the British Medical Journal, the new B117 strain had a 64% higher 28-day risk of death among people older than 30.


Death isn’t the only sad outcome. While it’s true many people will only have what seems like a bad case of the flu, and some will be asymptomatic, people with an underlying health condition like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity, high blood pressure, bad asthma and more stand a pretty good chance of ending up in the hospital. And some of those people are going to die. And many developed unexpected health problems 6 months after their infections.


The good news is that half the adults in the United States have had at least one vaccination. And there is now enough vaccines for everyone to get theirs in the next few months. So we should all be jumping up and down and doing the happy dance. Because once everyone is vaccinated, the US can really begin to open up sports and restaurants and theatres, and just about everything else.


But there is just one little flaw in this happy ending to a very sad story…


A rather large group of people don’t want to be vaccinated. I’ve heard a lot of reasons why. One person told me that the vaccinations are too new. Maybe they’re dangerous. I told him there had been only one death from 180 million vaccinations and almost 600,000 deaths from the virus.


Another person said he didn’t think he’d get it, and if he did it would only seem like a mild flu. And he never gets a flu shot anyway. I explained that the new strains were more dangerous for younger people, and even if he didn’t get really sick, “how would you feel if you were a carrier of the virus and infected your mom or dad who both have medical problems. How would you feel if one or both of them died?”


He didn’t answer…just kind of looked away.


And that brings me to the point of my story. We have a really big problem with this virus, and almost miraculously, a solution has been found in record time with effective vaccines. Getting your vaccine may save your life. And if not, it may save the life of someone you love. Even if you’re afraid, face your fears. As Joseph Campbell wrote, The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. We’ve already lost 20 million years.

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