First, the history of vaccines...
Sometime during the 1770s Dr. Jenner heard a milkmaid boast that she would never have the often-fatal or disfiguring disease smallpox, because she had already had cowpox, which has a very mild effect in humans. In 1796, Jenner took pus from the hand of a milkmaid with cowpox and inoculated an 8-year-old boy, James Phipps, with it. Jenner inoculated Phipps in both arms that day, subsequently producing in Phipps a fever and some uneasiness, but no full-blown infection. Later, he injected Phipps with variolous material, the routine method of immunization at that time. No disease followed. The boy was later challenged with variolous material and again showed no sign of infection. And thus, modern vaccination was born...
How do they work?
It's actually kinda simple.
But then people say silly things like, "I'm not a kid any more, I don't need to worry about mumps or whooping cough!" and then they go and get whooping cough and pass it on to their kids. This is how the disease mutates and spreads. Pertussis (whooping cough) is a really, really scary disease. Most people don't realize how serious this disease is. According to thesoundsofpertussis.com 92% of the pertussis deaths occur in infants under four months of age. Can you imagine your four month old baby making this sound? That is the sound of a child who genuinely cannot breathe. And it could be prevented with a simple vaccine.
Yea, yea. That's what they make antibiotics for!Ever heard of MRSA (methicillin-resistantStaphylococcus aureus)? How about the new one USA300? We have bombarded our systems with so many antibiotics and so often that the bugs are immune to them now. Antibiotics have their place in medicine, lord knows I've used (and needed!) my share of antibiotics. But we can't pull out this card for every cough and sniffle which is what's we've done. People say the reason that the infant and juvenile mortality rates from disease have gone down is because we're cleaner now and we know how to treat illnesses better. I have one word for you: Smallpox.
The earliest credible clinical evidence of smallpox is found in the Egyptian mummy of Ramses V who died over 3000 years ago (1145 BC). That's how long we, the human race, battled the disease. Smallpox has since been eradicated from the face of the earth through dedicated vaccination campaigns. The only place smallpox now exists is in test tubes. Two-year old Rahima Banu of Bangladesh was the last person infected with naturally occurring Variola major (smallpox), in 1975.
Need more proof? Polio. A number of eradication milestones have already been reached, and several regions of the world have been certified polio-free. The Americas were declared polio-free in 1994.
The Americas were declared polio-free in 1994.
In 2000 polio was officially eliminated in 36 Western Pacific countries, including China and Australia. Europe was declared polio-free in 2002. As of 2012, polio remains endemic in only three countries: Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, although it continues to cause epidemics in other nearby countries due to hidden or reestablished transmission. We could do it. We could erase pertussis from the face of the earth. We just need to do it.