History of vaccinations.
In the early 19th to the 20th century, parents would have been surprised to know that future generations would be free from childhood diseases. Diphtheria was then one of the most common diseases that took the lives of thousands of children, while polio left thousands of children crippled. Measles took the lives of half a million children. But today, we live a healthier life and have less anxiety about infections because of vaccination.
Vaccination is the greatest medical achievement of today’s world. Childhood diseases that were common in the past have become rare. Vaccination has helped to eliminate communicable diseases. However, to accomplish the goal of eradicating communicable diseases worldwide, vaccination needs to be administered widely in society.
Who were the pioneers of vaccination?
The evidence about epidemics of smallpox, a viral disease that led to horrible face disfigurement in survivors and took away thousands of lives all over the world was recorded by historians beginning from 10,000 BC in northeast Africa, according to Sanskrit texts. The mummy of the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses V provides some evidence of the presence of smallpox in those days. As trade developed, Indians caught the disease from Egyptians, and it further crawled to China around 1122 and Japan in the 6th century.
Smallpox was prevalent in Europe in the 5th to 7th centuries. It was a plague and was squelching everybody in its path; about 400,000 people were dying annually from smallpox. The illness did not pity anyone, and especially vulnerable to this disease were infants and little children.
o The first ones who tried to immunize people with powder made from the dry scabs of survivors of smallpox were the Chinese, who rubbed the substance into the scratched skin or nostrils of healthy persons. This procedure is what is known as variolation or inoculation.
o Lady Mary Wortley Montague (1689-1762), a victim of smallpox, demonstrated variolation, using her daughter, among others, in England. However, there were some cases of the disease being contracted after the procedure. This method was still quite risky.
o Dr. Edward Jenner, in 1796, created an effective vaccine against smallpox. Thanks to his invention, the world 'got rid of one of the most dangerous ailments forever', as it was reported in 1980.
o Louis Pasteur invented the rabies vaccine in 1880. He successfully experimented on a boy who had been bitten by rabid dog.
o 10 years later, Emil von Behring discovered the basis for the diphtheria and tetanus vaccines. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his contribution to physiology and medicine.
o By 1920, vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, and tuberculosis, or TB, were widely accessible and their use was widespread. Moreover, they became a part of preventive public health measures practiced throughout the world.
o In 1955, the vaccine against polio was introduced by Albert Sabin MD and Jonas Salk MD in the UK. Nowadays, the severe disease has almost disappeared from the face of the earth. They developed the inactivated polio vaccine and live polio vaccine respectively.
What are the most advanced types of shots?
o In 2008, Harald Zur Hausen was awarded the Nobel Prize for his discovery in the field of virology and immunology that human papillomavirus (HPV) is the cause of cervical cancer, and this led to the development of the HPV vaccine. It was the first time in the world's history that vaccination was administered for the prevention of cancer. All girls aged 12 to 13 years were offered immunization against this ailment, whose victims are, unfortunately, getting younger every year.
o The year 2013 marked another achievement in immunology, as vaccines against shingles for 70-year old patients, rotavirus for babies, and the flu for children were implemented in the health service in the form of sprays.
o In 2015, there was a significant event in the world of immunology as the vaccine against meningitis B was introduced. This ailment can kill a baby within hours and treatment is usually not efficient in this particular type of meningitis. The meningitis B vaccination program is the first national, routine, and publicly-funded program in the world.
Do the newest vaccines have any side effects?
All vaccines might be the cause of side effects as is any other medicine. All unpleasant symptoms that may take place after vaccination with the most recently-developed shots do not significantly differ from those symptoms that could occur after regular shots like DTaP or MMR. Among the common side effects are the following:
• Redness of the skin on and around the site of vaccination
• Slight fever
• Enlargement of the lymph nodes
• Pain in the joints and muscles that goes away without treatment
• Some fatigue
• An allergic reaction to the components of the vaccines
Some articles have reported that some girls who had been injected with the HPV vaccine developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), but the facts described in the print media do not provide any proper evidence. The WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) in March 2014 published a report stating that there is no link between vaccination against HPV and cases of CFS and ME.
Vaccines have improved the lives of people by eradicating deadly diseases. Outbreaks of diseases that can be prevented by vaccine, like mumps, for example, have become infrequent. To survive scratches or cuts from rusty saws or animal bites is no longer a big deal.
Vaccination against polio has spared generations from living a life of physical handicap. Children can enjoy life and not have to miss school because of pertussis; their natural defenses after vaccination are strong enough to fight the disease.
For all the benefits that vaccines provide, one can surely ignore the costs. The vaccination against highly-communicable diseases should be continued till they are eventually completely eradicated. Immunization from and preventing epidemics of these deadly diseases depend on a high level of cooperation in vaccination programs.
Some vaccinations are mandatory while some are not. To differentiate between the two types is difficult for parents. Parents need to think carefully before foregoing or seeking exemption from any vaccine. Some people are of the opinion that their children should have only the minimum vaccinations rather than all the vaccinations prescribed or recommended by health care authorities. This undoubtedly makes it hard for children to be protected from all these diseases as well as for any hopes of wiping these diseases completely from the face of this earth. However, it at least allows some individuals to have some level of immunization. But with the potential consequences of the diseases, should one choose minimum protection or the best protection possible?