There’s been a lot of debate surrounding vaccines lately. And while the healthy and rigorous debate regarding new medical interventions is always necessary, it’s a good time to remember the amazing history behind some of today’s well-established vaccinations.
The standard immunization schedule for children has quite a history. The eradication of certain illnesses from the population is a story of medical marvels, risk-takers, and the human immune system. The government mandates certain vaccines for children and they have proven effective in preventing or completely eradicating some pretty bad stuff.
While 2020 saw scientists racing to put mRNA vaccines into action, the history of traditional vaccines reminds us that immunization is an integral part of our society.
Here’s how it all began.
The Chance Discovery Killed Smallpox & Developed Vaccines
If you’re living in the United States in the 21st century, you’ve likely heard of smallpox, but you’ve likely never experienced it. Smallpox was pretty terrible. Picture disfiguring rashes across your body, pus-filled pustules on your feet, scalp, and even lungs.
As countries engaged in intercontinental trade, diseases such as smallpox ravaged communities. One-third of adults that contracted it were expected to die. Those who survived were often left blind or with terrible scars.
Then, as many of these stories go, one man proceeded to take a risk with a process known as inoculation. He discovered that by scratching some pus off of a sick individual onto the skin of a healthy person, the recipient would only be infected by a milder version of the virus.
The man usually credited with discovering the smallpox vaccine was a well-renowned country doctor named Edward Jenner. He took pus from cowpox (a milder version of smallpox) and put it onto the skin of 8-year-old James Phipps. The young boy developed mild symptoms but never contracted smallpox and never passed it onto others.
Jenner never patented the vaccine nor seemed interested in reeling a profit from it. His interest was in eradicating the disease that was making many people sick.
Understanding Viruses and the Immune System
Not long after Jenner’s discovery, several expeditions were sent out across the oceans to spread the word about how to protect people with the vaccine. What some experts look back at with incredulity is the fact that Jenner seemed not aware of how this was working—as the understanding of immunity and the immune system was just beginning.
Scientists eventually found that smallpox was caused by the variola virus. As we know today, immunologists have mastered the concept of eliciting an immune response to create antibodies. None of this was apparent or even conceptualized when those first inoculations for smallpox happened.
By 1979, smallpox was effectively eradicated. Interestingly enough, concerns about the use of smallpox as a weapon have led the U.S. stockpiling supplies of the smallpox vaccine.
The End of Polio — Another Vaccine Victory
The debilitating effects of polio (or poliomyelitis) are caused by the poliovirus; it can be deadly and attack a person’s spinal cord. This virus spread from person to person and, in the 1940s, caused quite a scare to the public at large. During this time, many parents worried about their children contracting the virus so they imposed quarantines and limited outside activities during the summer months. Travel between certain cities was also restricted and in 1952, the United States saw a record number of 57,628 cases.
It was during that year that a vaccine was developed and mass public vaccination programs followed. Cases in the United States fell considerably as soon as the vaccines were rolled out. Another oral vaccine was also developed and adopted. A few years later, by the early 1980s, there were almost zero domestically acquired cases in most developed countries.
The vaccine most commonly used today is an IPV vaccine, which means it is Inactivated Polio Vaccine. The vaccine is given to children at 2 months, 4 months, between 6 to 18 months.
For people traveling to countries that still have the virus, it is recommended they get the vaccine a few weeks before traveling there. Some of these countries include:
Mumps and The Vaccine that Made It Go Away
Another important vaccination in the U.S. includes the mumps vaccine. Mumps is caused by the Rubulavirus and it’s another not fun excursion into the world of low-grade fever and swollen salivary glands. This is an airborne virus that spreads through respiratory droplets. People can also become infected by touching surfaces contaminated with traces of the virus.
The vaccine was introduced in America in 1967 and since then the country has seen a 99% drop. Children usually get the MMR vaccine, known to be Measles, mumps, rubella.
Not Unlike Your Yearly Planner, Consider a Vaccine Schedule for Your Child
If you have little ones under the age of 18, it’s good to have a solid idea of the vaccine schedule to make sure your kids don’t miss their shots. During the pandemic, many parents became overwhelmed and may have missed necessary vaccines for their children. Catch-up vaccines are an option if your child has missed one or two doses of the recommended vaccine.
Find Quality Pediatric Care at Peds on Demand
As a pediatric clinic, we know that vaccinations are primary care important for your child and the community at large. If you have questions about the immunization schedule, your child’s vaccinations, or health, contact us today.
Want to learn more about receiving quality primary care for your child? Visit us at Pediatrics on Demand today.