The beginning of the end
The author is a Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
In November 1942, at the height of World War II, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill stood in Parliament. It was shortly after the Allied Forces won the battle of El Alamein in North Africa. He said, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
He was afraid that people would get too excited by the victory and warned that the war had only just begun. In fact, battles continued for more than a year and a half, and casualties continued. The breakthrough came on D-Day, June 6, 1994. As the Allies carried out the Normandy Landing, the “beginning of the end” approached.
Gustave Perna — the chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, a Covid-19 vaccines development project of the U.S. government — announced the beginning of Pfizer vaccine distribution and compared it to the Normandy Landing. He said that just as D-Day was the “beginning of the end” of World War II, the day had come for Covid-19.
Perna is a four-star general who served as a logistics officer for 39 years with the Army. He knows the history of the German forces’ retreat and liberation of Paris and Berlin after the Normandy Landing better than anyone. So he may have wanted to talk about D-Day with many implications.
In many ways, Covid-19 overlaps with World War II. When the aggregated deaths of Covid-19 in America reached 300,000, America was shocked that more people died from the virus than U.S. military deaths of 291,500 in World War II. The media compare the latest daily deaths of 3,000 to the number of U.S. soldiers that died on the first day after the Normandy Landing.
But there is a critical difference. With the Normandy Landing, the war ended and peace came to the world. But it won’t be the case this time. Depending on the income level and disease control strategies, countries have different volumes of vaccine supplies.
If the general public gets vaccines in America in February, Washington expects them to have herd immunity by May or June. But a Duke University study expects that the billions of people in countries without vaccines will have herd immunity in 2023, or as late as 2024.
D-Day has passed, but not everyone is looking at the “beginning of the end.” Some countries are at the “end of the beginning,” and some countries are only at the beginning of the beginning.