For many scientists and health organizations worldwide, 2020 was a race to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus. Designing and testing a vaccine is a slow process — but once a vaccine is available it can slow the spread of infection and disease, for instance, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is 95% effective in creating immunity for the virus.
“Vaccines are one of the most important tools for preventing outbreaks and keeping the world safe.” -Dr. Tedos Ghebreyeus (Director-General World Health Organization). However, as the nature of cultural spectrums follows, there exist sects of society that deject and ignore the experts.
We know these individuals and groups largely as “Anti-Vaxxers” (Anti-vaxxer: Noun; a person who opposes vaccination or laws that mandate vaccination). They share a philosophical ideal that vaccination carries risks of causing autism in children or that rather than a life-saving medicine in the vile, there is a microchip that the federal government will use to closely monitor their movements.
With this context provided, take a look at the following three vaccines that have prevented viruses, like COVID-19, from ending humanity.
1. The Smallpox Vaccine
Smallpox was the first successful vaccine, developed in 1796 by Edward Jenner. Jenner popularized the procedure, making it a common practice worldwide.
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes smallpox as “one of the deadliest diseases known to humans.” This virus leads to flu-like symptoms followed by pus-filled blisters covering the body. Historically, it killed three out of every ten people who contract the disease. (Mayo Clinic)
Smallpox is the only disease ever to be eradicated worldwide. That means that these days, no one receives the smallpox vaccine — it’s no longer necessary. This elimination of the disease is one of the greatest international public health achievements.
2. The Polio Vaccine
When the polio vaccine became available, people lined up around the block to get it. “The visions of children using iron lungs to survive are permanently ingrained in our history of infectious disease,” says Kirsten Hokeness, Ph.D., professor, and chair of the department of science and technology at Bryant University.
Children are particularly at risk for poliomyelitis, a highly infectious virus that can be spread through contact with another infected individual, or through contaminated food and water. For some, polio can lead to paralysis, which can be permanent. (WHO)
Today, the CDC recommends that children receive four doses of the polio vaccine, beginning at two months of age. Since the regulation of the vaccine around 1979, there hasn’t been a new polio case in the United States. Around the world, the number of cases has decreased dramatically — in 2018, there were only 33 cases.
3. The MMR Vaccine
Today, kids get two doses of the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella — one at 12 to 15 months, and a second dose at ages 4 to 6. The vaccine is highly effective against measles, which is a very contagious respiratory virus.
According to the CDC, “It is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90% of the people around him or her will also become infected if they are not protected.”.
The consequences are severe: measles can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis (brain swelling), and in some cases death. Vaccines for measles became available in 1963. Before vaccines were available, 3 to 4 million people contracted measles annually. MMR is considered virtually eradicated. However, there have been a small handful of cases in lower-income rural areas in the past few years.
Honorable mention: COVID-19 Vaccine
The COVID-19 vaccine is a safe and important tool in bringing the current pandemic to an end.The WHO, CDC, and all other health organizations encourage people to get vaccinated once they are eligible. No available vaccine has a lower effectiveness rate than 90% with the average between all variants being 95%.
We’ve spent over a year isolated, masked-up, and frustrated. However, the answer isn’t whimsical ignorance and racing to your favorite downtown Billings bar. Go get vaccinated, it’s free and available to all Montana residents and Rocky students. You can schedule your appointment at mtreadyclinic.org. I personally got my first dose last week. I would describe my experience as fast, fun, and stimulating my sense of social and moral responsibility.