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Journal number 1 ∘ Avtandil Sulaberidze
On Formation and Development of Pandemology as an Interdisciplinary Branch of Science

The following article deals with the issue of creation of pandemology as the newest integral branch of science which is based on separate corresponding scientific disciplines. The relevance of the emergence of pandemology as a scientific discipline is supported by the fact that the emergence of new types and names of pandemics is possible. And thanks to the knowledge gained from research on pandemology, we will be better prepared for new massive infectious infections, and both demographic and other social losses will be less.

On formation (establishment) of Pandemology as an Interdisciplinary branch of sciencein contrast to the existing scientific field of epidemiology, the research object of pandemology is broader and derived from the global character of pandemics. Epidemiology belongs to the sphere of medicine and as opposed to it pandemology studies not only medical field, but also the results caused by economic, demographic, sociological, psychological and other types of behavioral changes, which are in turn brought about by pandemics. It does so on a global scale as well as differentially, according to separate continents and countries.

Keywords: pandemics, virus, COVID-19, globalization, epidemiology, disciplines of pandemology.

JEL Codes: F02, I10, I18, I19

After the designation of a new epidemic of Coronavirus (COVID-19)[1] as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 11 March 2020, the world population, once again, faced a battle against the pandemic which was transformed as such from the epidemic. Its global character decreased the speed of societal progress and caused a regress.

In previous centuries epidemics were the subject of observation by contemporary thinkers and philosophers and they possessed essentially a descriptive character. For instance, from among the extant sources, the Plague epidemic is described in the ancient Sumerian work of literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh written in the XXII century BC. The Greek historian Thucydides described various epidemics in ancient Greece, namely in the II century AD (Urlanis B. 2007; 272-276).

If during the earlier centuries various countries, basically, battled epidemics more or less independently, today, as a result of its global character, all the countries of the world, simultaneously, fight against the Coronavirus epidemic which has transformed into the pandemic. The circle of fighters, who combat the COVID-19 pandemic in order to minimize its losses, has widened and besides medics (epidemiologists, virologists, infectiologists, etc.), actively involves representatives from various branches of science. The point of the matter is that the Coronavirus pandemic is qualitatively different from the previous ones, which is, first and foremost, reflected in the immensity of its speed and rapid spread as well as its global character. Therefore, in order to fight it one must adopt a specific approach. In Mirko Grmek’s opinion, if, in the past, humans played an indirect role in fighting against pandemics and epidemics, nowadays, they constitute the main factors and their impact on the pandemic is not only medical in essence, but is also occurring in the direction of other scientific fields (Grmek M. 1994).

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has practically engulfed the whole world and from the beginning of March 2020 up to the end of November of the same year, there have been detected more than 60 million infected humans, one and a half million of whom have died.The changes caused by the pandemic are of a global character and consequently, globalization and global society are under the global threat (Beck U. 1992, 2000; Giddens A. 1999). Therefore, the task of science is to identify those threats and challenges of pandemics, which face the whole mankind. It has become necessary to study not only today’s diseases but also the pandemics of the previous centuries and years (The Plague of Justinian, Bubonic Plague, the Spanish flu, cholera, etc.), according to separate branches of science. All the more so, as several of them repeat themselves or undergo mutation and emerge as new viruses. For example, the cholera pandemic repeated itself six times during the years 1817-1860 and then, after a century it emerged for the seventh time in 1961. According to the information contained on the website of the World Health Organization, there were 1227391 cases of cholera in 34 countries in 2017 and 5654 of them had a lethal outcome. It is known that the Spanish flu pandemic continued from March 1918 until June 1920 and overall this virus killed 20100000 people. The mentioned deadly virus underwent mutation the result of which was so called swine flu recorded in recent years. One of the most highly spread infectious diseases named malaria is still noteworthy as it creates serious problems because there exists no vaccine which would ensure a full recovery of a patient. According to statistics, there are 400 million cases of malaria recorded each year. The disease has claimed millions of lives until today. In addition, it must be noted that Ebola virus infected 1779 people as of 6 August 2014, 961 of whom have perished. Since the first half of the 19th century medicine has been fighting against an infectious disease – tuberculosis, which is spread through mycobacteria emitted in the air by means of coughing, sneezing or speaking.

 As opposed to epidemiological sciences, there are few, almost no scientific studies with regard to pandemics. We think that the above-mentioned as well as retrospective research of the other pandemics, epidemics and contagious infectious diseases, in accordance with separate branches of science, together with the study of today’s Coronavirus, will assist in the process of comprehension of possible post-pandemic (post-Coronavirus) scenarios and trends, while providing governments with scientifically formulated conception-programs concerning state policies that must be implemented in the future.

The point of the matter is that in modern world one witnesses a rapid change of aspects of behavior and function of all states, all social institutes and all humans. Subsequently, there occurs a gradual formation of the opinion in a society that the world will change and never be the same. In this respect, it is impossible not to agree with Albert Camus when he says “we must urgently reconsider our views about the world” (Camus A. “The Plague”).

As a consequence of the aforementioned, science must answer the following questions coming from the society: how will the Coronavirus pandemic develop and come to an end, will there be further waves of the disease and to what extent will they be more dangerous than previous pandemics? What should be the new format employed for fighting against it? How will economy, education, science and culture develop? What risks and threats are expected to emerge in the world and in its various continents, countries, etc.?

The answers to these difficult questions will depend, on the one hand, on how quickly the vaccinewill be created against the pandemic. Medical and biological sciences (epidemiologists, virologists, infectiologists, etc.) will play a decisive role in this process. On the other hand, inasmuch as the development of a society in every sphere, as academician Lado Papava figuratively states, is “a hostage of medicine” [Papava V. 2020], until its release from captivity, scientific, especially social sciences’, researches must proceed under conditions of coexistence with the pandemic, whose duration is also dependent on the quantity of its periods of reemergence, mutation, etc.

Nowadays, despite the existing problems, in order to eliminate the Coronavirus pandemic and with the hope of the reduction of losses to a minimum, expected from it in every sphere of societal development, the world scientists have begun researches in the field of medicine as well as in the other branches of science such as: sociology, economy, psychology, demography, etc.

As a consequence of the above-mentioned information and taking into consideration the specificity of the qualitatively new pandemic, we believe that there must be established the newest field of interdisciplinary science named pandemology with its proper directions (separate subfields of science).In contrast to the existing scientific field of epidemiology, the research object of pandemology is broader and derived from the global character of pandemics. Epidemiology belongs to the sphere of medicine and as opposed to it pandemology studies not only medical field, but also the results caused by economic, demographic, sociological, psychological and other types of behavioral changes, which are in turn brought about by pandemics. It does so on a global scale as well as differentially, according to separate continents and countries.

In Peter Berm’s view, the isolation (quarantine, restrictions, etc.) between an epidemic and pandemic is quite dissimilar. In the case of the epidemic, one or more specific regions are isolated, whereas during the pandemic, the whole world is in the isolated situation. As the researcher of the foreign relations of the European Council [ECFR] Jeremy Shapiro states, the pandemic unites people while the epidemic divides them (VachsteinV. 2020).

The urgency of the establishment of pandemology as a scientific discipline is strengthened by the opinion of medics, who believe the 21st century to be the era of epidemics and pandemics. According to the statement of the director of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (07.09.2020), the world must be ready for the next pandemic – “this will not be the last pandemic. History teaches us that the pandemics are a fact of life. However, when the next pandemic comes, the world has to be ready for it – it has to be better prepared than it is now”.

 Therefore, we must not exclude the possibility that epidemics and pandemics of other types and names, different from COVID-19, will emerge, and with the knowledge amassed by the researches of pandemology, we will be better prepared to face the newly created, massively contagious infections and diminish the losses of our society.

Accordingly, pandemology as an interdisciplinary science stands before us in the form of separate disciplines (fields) of science, where the role of the scientific disciplines (subfields), included in it, is different from each other. Thus, separate branches of science that comprise and create pandemology as a system of interdisciplinary scientific fields can be designated by their names. For example, economy of pandemics, sociology of pandemics, demography of pandemics, psychology of pandemics, history of pandemics, law of pandemics, politics of pandemics, etc.

Moreover, inasmuch as its research objects are certain pandemics which come about during certain periods (from earlier years, as well as present and future pandemics), in order to study these occurrences and processes deeper, more fundamentally and from every angle, we can give them titles of the current pandemic, for instance, under conditions of Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Coronaeconomy, Coronademography, Coronasociology, Coronapsychology, Coronalaw, etc. This will, on the one hand, give us ideas about the development results of pandemics in separate directions, and on the other hand, will enable us to compare the development peculiarities, consequences, duration, geographic spread, etc. of each of them.

To confirm what we said above, we will present the definition connected to Coronavirus, which was given to journalists by the director of the World Health Organization T. A. Ghebreyesus: “the new viral infection is often designated as simply Coronavirus. In reality, Coronavirus is a family of viruses that includes COVID-19. The taxonomic name of the new virus, which was picked by the international committee on taxonomyof virus, is SARS-CoV-2. Besides the taxonomic name, a virus needs to be titled so as to be distinguished from other viruses, to be pronounced in every language and to assist in avoiding stigma. The name itself, COVID-19, is an accumulation of three words: “Corona”, Virus” and “Disease”, as for the number 19, it signifies the year 2019”.

In this regard, it is interesting to note a new term “Coronomics”, which was introduced in the scientific field of economy by the Sri Lankan professor De Alvis. The word is derived from the amalgamation of two terms – “Corona” and “Economics” and it studies the economic consequences of Coronavirus. (Later there emerged another similar term – “Coronanomics”) (Eichengreen B. 2020, cited from Papava V. 2020).

Within the scientific works of economists we can notice economic views related to Coronavirus. V. Papava and V. Charaia (Papava V. 2020) state that until now the economists have been studying the impact of an economic crisis on healthcare system generally. The present situation in the world has cast the issue in a different light, namely, that Coronavirus and its global spread is already causing a large-scale economic crisis [Geller A. 2020], and that Coronavirus has practically transformed into the “economic pandemic” (Riley C. 2020).

In their opinion, the relevancy of Coronanomics is determined not only by the fact that today we have a full-blown declared Coronavirus pandemic, but also that these types of global threats, supposedly, will not be excepted in the future and under these conditions, the world must learn to live and continue its economic activity (Gigerenzer G. 2020).

It is necessary to realize that as opposed to a classic type, the world now stands before a qualitatively new global economic crisis, the causes of which have exogenic not endogenic character, that is, when these causes are not generated within an economy but are provoked by a rapid spread of the source – Coronavirus – which exists outside the realm of the economy. With regard to the mentioned factor, the whole world as separate countries face a threat designated by a new term – “Coronomic Crises”, which is different from the classic economic crisis (Papava V. 2020).

The South Carolina University’s sociology professor D. Cohan’s article “sociology of Coronavirus development” merits attention. In it the author reveals the most severe problems of the post-Coronavirus world: economic results, among them poverty, economic inequality and unemployment, lack of sustenance and security, several results of mental health, nationalism and racism, ageism and treatment of elderly. They will assume a global character for the whole world and will become the leading trend (Cohan D. 2020).

The researcher of the department of simulation of economic systems belonging to the Computer Center of Russia’s Academy of Sciences, Doctor of economic sciences, I. Kamenev, thinks that the most important trend in the post-Coronavirus world will be the digital transformation of labor market. This will require big efforts and significant financial investments (Dobrov E. 2020).

The works of the Georgian economists are related to the problems of Coronaeconomics. These are the mentioned scholars: V. Papava (Papava V. 2020), A. Tvalchrelidze and A. Silagadze (Tvalchrelidze A., Silagadze A. 2020), E. Mekvabishvili (Mekvabishvili E. 2020), G. Ghaghanidze (Ghaghanidze G. 2020), R. Abesadze (Abesadze R. 2020), M. Jibuti (Jibuti, M. 2020), M. Kakulia (Kakulia M. 2020), T. Shengelia (Shengelia T. 2020), I. Archvadze (Archvadze I. 2020), V. Charaia (Charaia V. 2020), G. Benashvili (Benashvili G. 2020), G. Bedianashvili (Bedianashvili G. 2020), A. Maglakelidze (Maglakelidze A. 2020), R. Begiashvili (Begiashvili R. 2020) and others. Associated researcher of the Ilia State University’s Institute of Demography and Sociology N. Gomelauri (Gomelauri N. 2020), in his work, writes about new challenges and trends of pandemics sociology in the post-Coronavirus world, he also touches upon the issue of optimal coordination of social institutes and consolidation of sociology’s role.

We must additionally note the term “Coronastatistics” which was offered by Professor S. Gelashvili who is the head of Tbilisi State University’s Statistics Department of Business and Economy faculty. The aim of the mentioned field is to formulate qualitatively new methods with which to calculate statistical data.

Sociology has a special place in terms of studying pandemics. Therefore, one of the significant fields (subfields) of pandemology as a branch of science is Coronasociology, which is also termed by sociologists as sociology of pandemics. In essence both are acceptable, however, the difference between them is, as we have stated above, that Coronasociology gives concrete expression to the existing type of pandemic, whereas the sociology of pandemics is general and incorporates the aggregate of pandemics. For instance, the sociology professor of Virginia University of Public Sciences D. Black, like other sociologists, uses the term sociology of pandemics the research object of which is, on the one hand, the Plague pandemic of the previous centuries and on the other hand, today’s Coronavirus pandemic. We are not against the use of the term of sociology of pandemics, but, as we have said above, we think that in the case of the Coronavirus pandemic, the use of the term Coronasociology would give a more concrete expression to Coronavirus as the object of sociological research than the term sociology of pandemics, which is general and does not precisely describe the research object.

In order to confirm the above-mentioned, we will cite the book of the same author D. Black, which was published in 2011 and is titled “Moral Time”. In it, when analyzing the Plague pandemic in Europe, he uses the term sociology of pandemics and speaks about those social fluctuations that always cause such reactions from a society as are theories of conspiracy and conspirology, massive migrations of those in panic, false information, fake accusations, mass killings of Jews and other diseased groups, etc. (Black D. 2011).

D. Black expresses an analogous opinion in the article “Sociology of pandemics” which was published in the middle of March 2020 in a social network. However, here he speaks concretely about Coronavirus and not about the Plague pandemic. He believes that we must expect new conspiracies with regard to the Coronavirus pandemic. Studying social attitudes and feelings, especially during social fluctuations, is assuredly the subject of sociology and social psychology. The scientist also thinks that under conditions of Coronavirus there will emerge a new social ethics, which means retaining proximity between relatives and those separated by distance (kinship, partnership, spiritual relationship, etc.). Consequently, the form of society’s organization and self-organization requires the sociological study of post-Coronavirus world formatting (Black D. 2020).

Therefore, if, in the first case, D. Black had used the term sociology of the Plague instead of the sociology of pandemics, and in the second case, Coronasociology, the type of the pandemic, as the research object and direction, would have been more specific.

The example of Coronasociology and generally sociology of pandemics is presented in the form of the article “using sociology to understand the Coronavirus pandemics”, which was written by sociology Professor Prince Kennex Aldama who works in the department of social sciences in Los Banes (Spain). In it he discusses the phenomenon of Coronavirus as a societal issue and while describing a global risk he separates the three main reactions toward the risk: denial, apathy and transformation. In the first instance, humans act like there is no risk. Then they acknowledge the risk, but do not react to it. In his opinion, when considering the reality and severity of the situation, the first two may not save us. As opposed to them, while fighting against the risk, he gives an advantage to societal transformation, collective, global and constructive transformative activity and states, that this is the basic foundation for the future scenarioand the only way to battle against the existing threat and build the future society.

It is the task of Coronasociology to study the forms of social transformation, its basic scenarios, fulfil the role of an expert in order to prove the social scenarios of the governing class and explain to the masses their scenarios as well as avoid the spread of false information and sometimes, the dissemination of provocative social gossips too (Prince Kennex R. Aldama. 2020).

Coronasociology-wise, there is an interesting article titled “Sociology explains how Coronavirus can change the world around us” by R. Capriano, who is a sociology professor at Carolina University.  He believes that sociologists, first of all, must pay attention to social policy, they must determine the coordination forms of social institutes and become the government’s experts (Capriano R. 2020).

As an example of Coronasociology we can mention the article by K. Fitzpatrick who is a professor of sociology and criminology at Arkansas University. In the article he highlights the problem of food safety, which is relevant today as well as in the post-Coronavirus world. It can become a trigger for increasing social instability. Thus, the mentioned issue must be in the center of attention when creating the future social world (Fitzpatrick K. 2020).

One of the fields (subfields) of pandemology, as an interdisciplinary science, in our opinion, is the demography of pandemics. The point is that demography includes the subfields of bio demography and medical demography, which study the biological and medical determinants of child-birth and mortality processes. Furthermore, the research object of the demography of pandemics is the influence of pandemics (for instance Coronavirus) not only on the quantitative tendencies of demographic indicators, but also on the demographic behavioral changes of population, family and individual which determine the said indicators.As a consequence of social-demographic security, it is important for the state to formulate demographic and family policies under conditions of the pandemic in accordance with the certain directions of demography – marriage and divorce, child-birth and mortality, reproductive and self-caring behavior. Following the changes of age-gender structure and population’s reproduction regime, attention must be paid to the changes of intergenerational demographic equilibrium. In particular, as opposed to other pandemics, under conditions of Coronavirus, one must focus on the changes of life expectancy indicators of population during birth and among genders, on population aging and the results of demographic pressure caused by it, etc.

As the main theoretical-methodological basis for the demography of pandemics, together with theories created during the previous centuries, we can use A. Omran’s (epidemiological transition) [Omran A. 1971] and Mirko Grmek’s (conception of pathocenosis) [Grmek M. 1994] theories. The periodization of both theories is more or less similar, which makes it easy to research the demography of pandemics.

The research object of the demography of pandemology is related to such demographic factors as: migration, quantity of population and its density, level of urbanization, marriage, child-birth, mortality, etc. The speed and level of becoming infected with the pandemic in the country is largely connected to the “import” of the pandemic, which is the result of tourism and transit movement of foreign citizens entering the country. The country resorts have a crucial impact on the process. The mechanism for the spread of the pandemic is as follows: first, migrants from other countries (among them the infected) mainly arrive in the capital of the country, visit its large resort cities and become the “primary source” for the infection of the population. By internal migration of the local population the virus is spread to the other populated areas of the country. The speed and level of becoming infected with the pandemic is, in turn, determined by the distance between the located areas, the quantity and density of the population (Sulaberidze А. 2020).

The average density of the world population on 1 square meter is 59.9 individuals as of 2020, however because of the unequal movement of population and demographic peculiarities of certain countries, the spread of the pandemic did not occur within all countries all at once. In those countries which possess large territories and thus, where the density of the population is low, for example, in the USA (36.2 individuals on 1 square kilometer), in Russia (8.9 individuals), in Brazil (25.4 individuals), et al., the main primary areas for the spread of the pandemic are capitals, large cities, conglomerates, big industrial districts and the cities and settlements with high population density, especially the countries of Europe: Italy (205.8 individuals), Germany (240.4 individuals), France (119.2 individuals), Spain (93.3 individuals), Austria (109.3 individuals), Greece (80.9 individuals), et al. [https://population.un.org/wpp/DataQuery/] could not avoid the high level of infection through the pandemic. Apart from this, we must consider the fact that cities in these countries are compactly situated, the distance between them is not big and they are dotted with touristic routes.

As for the internal migration, it is the main demographic factor for the spread of an infection within a territory (country) and its termination depends on the measures taken by the country’s government. For example, by declaring a state of emergency in March 2020, the Georgian government curbed the internal migration, and the international migration was actually reduced to zero level within the country. The quarantine that was declared in the regions infected with COVID-19 (Marneuli and Bolnisi) as well as in the capital of the country played a substantial role. This had a huge impact on the reduction of the level of the pandemic. Later, as a result of the deterioration of social-economic situation, restrictions were cancelled during the second wave of the pandemic, which significantly worsened the pandemic situation.

During the earlier centuries, the means of transportation were underdeveloped, therefore it took a long time to move from one territory to another. As a result of this, the speed of the spread of a viral infection to the other territories was low. In contrast to the previous centuries, nowadays, the development of the means of transportation has significantly accelerated the spread of the viruses not only between the territories (countries) which are far away from each other, but also between the continents. Today, international migrants and tourists are the ones who primarily spread the viruses between various countries.

Insofar as pandemics and large-scale epidemics are a part of humankind’s existence, in order to study them, according to the fields, which create the system of pandemology as an interdisciplinary branch of science, apart from the above discussed scientific disciplines, we think it is possible to establish the following scientific fields: a general theory of pandemics, geography of pandemics, psychology of pandemics, philosophy of pandemics, politology of pandemics, ecology of pandemics, hygiene of pandemics, history of pandemics, statistics of pandemics, mathematical models and prognosis of pandemics, law of pandemics, global and regional pandemics, ethnical pandemics, et al.

We can prove that the other scientific disciplines, apart from the above mentioned scientific disciplines which comprise the system of pandemology as an interdisciplinary branch of science, have the right of existence; however, we believe that the final argumentation is up to those scientists and specialists who work in each of these fields. On our part, we feel that it is only a matter of time before pandemology is acknowledged as the newest branch of science.

 

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[1]The director of the World Health Organization T. A. Ghebreyesus presented a new official title of the virus to journalists in Geneva. The name “Coronavirus” is derived from the Latin word “Corona”, which means a “crown”. For its part, the word in Latin was borrowed from Greek κορώνη, where it also signifies a “crown”. Juan Almeida and David Tyrrell were the first ones to observe and study Coronavirus and give it a name. In printed source, the name first appeared in 1968 in the journal Nature in order to designate the new family of viruses. The name refers to the characteristic appearance of virions (the infective form of the virus) by electron microscopy, which have a fringe of large, bulbous surface projections creating an image reminiscent of the solar corona or halo.This morphology is created by the viral spike peplomers, which are proteins on the surface of the virus.