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Radhika Damle: The promise of innovation, even in a dark year

Sure, the pandemic set us back, but some of the new practices we established will improve our lives in years to come.

Oh, no! A ‘Hit’! There goes my third ship! As a second-grader, I always lost a game of Battleship to my older, high-school-aged sister. That day, I felt defeated.

During my next turn, something had to be done to stop this losing streak. I’d never gotten the chance to say “I won” to my sister, and that frustrated me. All of a sudden, an innovative idea surfaced in my mind.

With a twinkle in my eye, I yelled “I-1!”.

“WHAT?!” she exclaimed, her face in disbelief, “You said ‘I won’?!”

I shrugged half-heartedly and said, “Well, I was just telling you a position on the board.”

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She was impressed with my cleverness and laughed, “You can win this game. That was a good twist.”

Last year’s events progressed in a similar manner to the events in my game of Battleship that I played with my sister. At the beginning of 2020, we were losing the game to COVID-19 as there was a soaring rate of infection and hospitals were at full capacity. As a nation, we were at the end of our wits and were experiencing feelings of hopelessness, worry, and frustration.

Finally, on Dec. 11, a game-changing moment came with the FDA’s emergency approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. For many of us, this announcement symbolized a turning point in the battle against the virus.

The COVID-19 vaccine not only served as a beacon of hope for us, but also broke a world record. The process for the development of this vaccine took less than 10 months: a short amount of time compared to the normal timeline for vaccine development, which typically takes at least five years. The program, aptly called Operation Warp Speed (OWS), will deliver 300 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to the American public in the next several months.

OWS used an innovative method in developing the COVID-19 vaccine. They executed certain phases in parallel rather than sequentially in order to save time without compromising safety. This was a prime example of collective innovation that arose due to the pandemic.

On an individual level, we also noticed innovation last year. The stay at home order created many gaps in our daily schedule. To combat this problem, we decided to utilize technology to fill these gaps. Additionally, we innovatively used it to enhance our lives by erasing geographic barriers which existed in the pre-pandemic world. We repurposed our newfound free time to spend time with family, revisit old hobbies, explore new interests, and zoom around the world with a simple click.

As the Greek philosopher, Plato, once said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Last year, misery was the mother of innovation. This pandemic brought out the best in us and humanity will continue to reap the benefits from these developments. These developments have definitely made their mark on the world.

Along with the promise of eradicating the coronavirus, the ambitious vaccine has set a new precedent for vaccine development in the future. As the vaccine doses are injected into people’s arms, we are proud, hopeful, and fearless. In our arms, the vaccine embodies the confidence that will empower us as we enter a new era.

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Soon the pandemic will become a thing of the distant past and we will re-enter the world in-person and establish a new hybrid world. This world will embrace the conventions of the pre-pandemic world along with these new advances. New era, here we come!

Radhika Damle is a junior at John Marshall High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters. Email jpieters@postbulletin.com.

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