Vaccines: A Miracle of Modern Medicine

Do you believe in The Easter Bunny? Mermaids? The Tooth Fairy? All of these are indeed beliefs. But medicine is not a belief. And not all medicine is based on fact. But it is based on evidence.

Evidence shows that vaccines save lives. Vaccines are a miracle of modern medicine.

Respected physicians have written books on the subject, yet disinformation prevails.

And you know the old saying about opinions….

Let’s look at vaccines and why they are a miracle of modern science!

 They’ve been in the 24-hour news cycle now and again. (ahem!)

What are vaccines? How did they come to be? How do vaccines work? What good are they, anyway?

VACCINE GOAL

To induce a protective immune response against an infectious agent without causing harm to the patient.

Vaccine Immunity chart
We're in the green arrow zone

HISTORY OF VACCINES

We must begin any history of vaccines with a disease that’s been around for tens of thousands of years . 

Smallpox! 

30% mortality rate with a painful, lingering death by multiple organ failure.

That ugly mummy on the right is Ramses V.  If you look closely, you’ll see smallpox scars!

The guy on the far right survived smallpox. 65 to 80 percent of survivors had to live with the scars. 

Ramses V w smallpox 1157 B.C.
Wikimedia Commons
Smallpox scars
Wikimedia Commons
SMALLPOX
Smallpox dates back tens of thousands of years where it decimated large populations throughout Africa, China, and Europe.
VARIOLATION
Ancient Chinese practice of ‘variolation’ used dried smallpox scabs blown into the nose. It produced a milder -aka weaker- form of the disease. Variolated patients were subsequently protected!
By 1700
Variolation had been adopted in India, Africa, and the Ottoman Empire. (purple on the map)
Inoculation
17th C docs found that giving a bit of fresh material (pus!) from a smallpox pustule to an uninfected person under their skin via a sharp lancet would provide protection . This was termed ‘inoculation.’
Inoculation Gains Favor
An English aristocrat Lady Mary Montagu (1689 – 1762) suffered from smallpox. She survived but was disfigured. She ordered that her children be inoculated. Word of the noble’s family use of this technique spread!
Edward Jenner
In England in the late 18th century Edward Jenner noticed that dairy maids infected with cowpox became immune to smallpox. Plus, they did not have a scarred face!
Parents Took Bribes in 1796 (according to me)
Dr. Jenner deliberately infected a boy, James Phipps, with cowpox through scratches in the skin. (Maybe he bribed the boy’s parents?) Next, he exposed the boy to smallpox. The boy was protected. (again, bribes had to be involved)
VACCINES WERE BORN
In 1798 Jenner published his findings with this headine VACCINATION PROVIDES IMMUNITY TO SMALLPOX! He coined the term ‘vaccine’.
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Louie Pasteur
Developed a vaccine for rabies using spinal cords of infected rabbits. Rabies has a 100% mortality rate! (ouch)
Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin
Polio was one of the most feared diseases in the early 20th C. It left hundreds of thousands of children with irreversible paralysis EVERY YEAR.  
More on Polio...
In the 1940s and 50s polio was so widespread that the U.S. imposed quarantines .  Researched tried to develop a polio vaccine for 15 years and failed.  In 1955, Jonas Salk developed a vaccine to eradicate polio!  It saves millions of lives! Dr. Albert Sabin developed an oral polio vaccine in 1961.
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Maurice Hilleman is a miracle worker, yet I bet you’ve never even heard of the guy!

 

No single medical advance had had a greater impact than vaccines. 

 

Hilleman created over forty vaccines!

VACCINES ARE A MIRACLE OF MODERN MEDICINE

Got polio?

FLU VACCINE AND COVID-19

The CDC recommends influenza vaccination as the best way to protect from influenza disease and its complications.

Influenza is the flu. The vaccine is called H1N1

Of course there can be complications. Talk to your doctor if you're concerned.

I am not touching Covid-19 right now. We need more information before I do!

Proper mask use
Properly placed mask
Mask almost on med student
Mask needs an adjustment

Many people hold beliefs about the flu vaccine that are at odds with the best available scientific evidence. A recent study found that more than two-fifths, or 43 percent, of Americans believe that the seasonal flu vaccine can give us the flu.

There can be complications after putting anything in one’s body, from drinking water to eating an apple to applying aloe to getting a vaccine. 

 

If someone is looking for issues with the H1N1 vaccine, they will find them. 

 

Nothing is 100% safe. Just surf the web and you’ll find a plethora of exceptions, anecdotes, and myths sprinkled among the facts. (CDC flu guidelines for the upcoming season here)

Getting the flu from a flu vaccine is  not happening.

 

Because many vaccines do not contain a live virus, the shot itself cannot give anyone the flu.

 

What does live virus mean?

 

VACCINE SCIENCE

There are three types of vaccines.

Killed Inactivated
These vaccines contain only parts of the virus or bacteria. The parts enable your body to see this as a threat and gain advance notice. (Even though a part of a virus or bacteria will not give you the disease)  Your body builds up antibodies to fight the germ, ready to act if it shows up again.
Toxoids : Inactivated Toxins
This type of vaccine is an inactivated bacterial toxin. (Examples: Diphtheria, anthrax,tetanus. ) The toxoid enables the body to create a defense against the bacteria if the real deal shows up.
Live Attenuated
This vaccine contains a small concentration of the virus. (Famous example smallpox. Also measles, mumps, rubella)
Immunosuppressed people
People with compromised immune systems cannot receive Inactivated or Attenuated vaccines. It is our responsibility to protect them.
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The problem with Inactivated vaccines is that the antibodies your body produces don’t stick around for your entire lifetime.

 

This is why booster shots are necessary! 

And why my kids accused me of not vaccinating them after they had testing for antibodies… and were low on several. Okay, many.

Pet me says Louie
Mommy DID vaccinate you!

Viruses and bacteria are so powerful that countries sometimes consider their use for weapons. Aka biological warfare. If you want to read more, I’ve got a post here!

HERD IMMUNITY

The term “herd immunity” is widely used but carries a variety of meanings. 

“A common implication of the term is that the risk of infection among susceptible individuals in a population is reduced by the presence and proximity of immune individuals.” —Fine P, Eames K, Heymann DL.  

In other words, the herd helps protect immunosuppressed people and people with allergies (to egg proteins) who can’t get vaccinated.

So. Being immunized impacts those around you in more ways than you can imagine.

For more on the concept of herd immunity, here is an intriguing article

It makes sense that  the more communicable a pathogen, the greater the proportion of the population must be immune, in order to block sustained transmission. 

In other words, percentages of immune people in the population to achieve herd immunity depends on how contagious a disease is.

Vaccines and Herd Immunity chart
My purple and blue are a little off but you get the idea!

MISINFORMATION ABOUT VACCINE SAFETY

Widespread misinformation about vaccine safety is an important public health problem. People who believe that vaccines can make us sick are less likely to vaccinate themselves or their children. 

 

Our 24-hour news cycle mentality sensationalizes stories that the news media cherry picks. They inflate our mortal fears and push our panic buttons far more than the unsexy risks of  excessive sugar consumption, not wearing a seat belt, or not getting a vaccine.

 Measles photo from PD-USGov.

Twins above; one vaccinated one not (Wikimedia Commons ) Which twin would you want to be?

In 1982, a television news special aired ‘DPT: Vaccine Roulette’ It depicted anecdotal, heart-wrenching stories of children who became handicapped or even died after receiving the DPT vaccine.

DPT is a vaccine cocktail, created by Hilleman to reduce numbers of shots. 

It provides protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough.

Coconut drinks
Actual cocktails, to congratulate yourself for finding my post!

Nothing is 100% safe. (Last month, when I was walking Louie down our street, a neighbor backed out of his driveway and bumped me! GAD)

I digress…

In 1982 a television news special aired ‘DPT: Vaccine Roulette’ It depicted anecdotal, heart-wrenching stories of children who became handicapped or even died after receiving the DPT vaccine. One TV show made vaccines look like Moses spreading a plague.

In Japan, this scare let to banning the DPT vaccine. This spurred a tenfold increase in whooping cough cases and a tripling of whooping-cough related deaths.
Panic in England let to a 40% decline in immunizations, with a resulting surge in 100,000 cases over the next few years.

Despite physicians and the FDA presenting large, long-term studies w a combined sample size of over 1 million children, and the data showed that as many as 265,000 children annually came down with whooping cough and 75,000 died before vaccines, the spread of vaccine fear went viral.

People believed the show instead of physicians. Why? It’s an interesting question. What do you think? 

 

Flash forward to the 21st Century!

Parents are still opting out. This is bringing  measles back from near extinction. 

MEASLES

MEASLES IS ONE OF THE MOST CONTAGIOUS DISEASES

If ONE person has measles, up to 90% of the people close to that person -who are not immune- will also become infected. (One person infects 12-18 susceptible people)

Measles lives for TWO HOURS in the air

This means one person can sneeze in a room, the room can be evacuated and two hours later, it still may not be safe to return.
Measles Cases in the US by year
US Measles Cases on the Rise
Heat map non medical exemption rates
Map of people opting out of vaccinations for their kids

ANTI-VAX

We’ve moved into an era where more people are beginning to question why we need vaccines. Herd immunity is keeping many children safe, which helps grow an anti-vaccine mentality. 

There are risks with  vaccination, and it’s important to be aware! But it’s disadvantageous to be so hyper reactive that the risks outweigh the benefits.

For some, it’s a conspiracy issue or a control issue. Or a hatred of large corporations. Aren’t they all in it for the money?  Some viruses have been tamped down for an entire generation so fear has waned. ‘The disease can’t be that bad.’ Or ‘why do we need shots. Diseases doesn’t exist anymore.’

THAT IS NOT TRUE.

HOW MANY VIRUSES HAVE BEEN WIPED OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH?

Not measles, not any more

TWO...a small # considering how hard science works

SMALLPOX (1979) RINDERPEST, a virus infecting cattle (2011) Apparently the cattle aren't opting out.

In recent years, vaccination rates at many California schools have plummeted as parents, some of whom fear a now debunked link between vaccines and autism, have declined to inoculate their children.

Vaccines do not cause autism. 

That research paper was disproven. A prominent medical journal retracted it over ten years ago. You can see (above) that in 2013, three years later, people remain suspicious.

18 States still allow non-medical vaccine exemptions

California stopped allowing non-medical exemptions in 2015, after a nationwide outbreak of measles was traced to Disneyland. Go California!

Numbers of exemptions are still increasing in 12 of those states

Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah
Child getting vaccinated
I admit it, shots are scary. But it's just for a second.

Get cut by a rusty nail and you’re given a tetanus shot. What if you weren’t? (Click on link below)

Tetanus Case of 6-year-old results in 57 days in hospital and $ 811,929 in medical costs.

In 2019,WHO listed anti-vax as one of the top ten global health threats.

Happy Vaccinated twins
Happy, vaccinated twins w their dad.
Happy kids getting vaccines in 1950
No one thought vaccination was scary in the 1960's. They couldn't wait to be innoculated.

If you’re interested in a more light-hearted angle about pandemics, here’s a great post for you!

 Contact me if you want more information! I am happy to provide you w/ articles and books with mountains of scientific evidence that back up what they say, written by physicians and scientists.

Not one book cites a tweet  by an actress and former playmate in their bibliography.

Information is power! That’s why I wrote this post. To provide information.

Because this post was on the serious side, I am leaving you with a calming video of cottonwoods!

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74 thoughts on “Vaccines: A Miracle of Modern Medicine”

  1. Great post! I think what some may not realise, is that vaccines not only protect you, but they also protect those, that can’t have the vaccine or have a lowered immune system.

    Aimsy xoxo

    Reply
  2. Such an informative and detailed post, wow! And yes, much like the wearing of masks to help prevent the spread of COVID 19 now, as Aimsy says, vaccines don’t just protect those who receive them but also those who are at risk and vulnerable too. Lisa.

    Reply
  3. Very interesting and informative, and I agree that this should be sent to all those anti-vaxers out there!!

    Reply
  4. Sue this is invaluable! I shared it on FB and will do so on Twitter now. The anti-vax folks are on the rise, and this is such a useful tool.not to argue- that only reinforces their algorithmic attention. Instead we need to block such posts when they occur and then post a link here as a fresh post, making it public. Well done!

    Reply
  5. It is extremely annoying how much disinformation that exists around vaccines. I red a news article where by more than a third of Americas plan to refuse getting a covid19 vaccine if one is developed. Boggles the mind how people can be like that

    Reply
  6. Really informative post about an important subject. I think so many people are misinformed or uneducated about this subject which is why they lean towards anti-vax which is annoying bc they don’t realise that they’re choice actually impacts everyone! As you mentioned heard immunity only works when majority are vaccinated. Great post for spreading information and awareness.

    Reply
  7. This is a great post on vaccinations – I have always been vaccinated as a child and I am thankful that my parents didn’t place myself and others at risk by choosing not to. There were some in my school growing up that never had their vaccinations which I never understood, but it’s the parents choice I guess. I think it is important for the individual to make their mind up too – some kids don’t get the choice until they are 18 which is a shame. Thanks for sharing.

    Paige // Paige Eades

    Reply
    • When parents are making a choice to vaccinate or not, hopefully it’s an informed decision, not one based on anecdotal evidence. How fantastic that your parents made the choice you would have made for yourself! Thanks so much.

      Reply
  8. Vaccines have to be one of the greatest gifts to modern medicine. The new increase in things like measles and the rise in anti vax is so infuriating. Even if the autism thing was true, is that really considered worse than a potentially deadly disease? Really interesting post x

    Sophie

    Reply
    • It’s a tough question. There will always remain some doubt about the “absolute” safety of childhood vaccines. There are potential complications but often are not associated with long-term consequences, the way death is. Here’s a much cited study about seizure risk

      Thank you so much!

      Reply
  9. A very informative post! I travel a lot and constantly need vaccines for new places I visit, or boosters and what not. I do wonder about when we might see the Coronavirus vaccine begin to roll out?

    Reply
  10. This is such an informative post! I don’t want to live in a world without vaccines. With so much misinformation out there, I’m so glad there’s posts like this around!

    Reply
  11. This is such a great and informative post about vaccines. I learned a lot reading this! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Reply
  12. I really love how well detailed this post is. There is a lot of misinformation about vaccines but I would rather have vaccine than put other vulnerable people at risk. I was vaccinated as a kid, so glad my parent made that decision for me. Thank you for this, I also learnt more about vaccines.

    Reply
  13. Unfortunately, what it will take for people to realize the dangers of these diseases is a resurgence of them. Personally, I don’t understand how people don’t see the connection between no longer getting diseases and vaccination…

    Reply
  14. It is interesting to see the debate about vaccines. It is so important that we take the right steps to prevent illnesses when we can. There can be complications, but things happen when we take certain risks for certain rewards. I just wish that everyone is educated about health hazards!

    Nancy ✨ exquisitely.me

    Reply
  15. This was such a timely blog post with great information. I am a believer of vaccines and make sure my boys are caught up. My whole family takes the flu vaccine every year and have not experienced any flu-like illnesses in years. Thanks for sharing this important information.

    Reply
  16. Really excellent post, and fun to read also! My brother once made the point that air bags are an imperfect invention — that perhaps 10 out of 1000 times an airbag is deployed, it causes injury or even death. But we have come to accept that risk, and now rely on them – buying cars with them or installing them in older cars that don’t have them. The manufacturers are fine-tuning the mechanics every year, making them more safe.

    The same can be said of vaccines.

    Reply

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Susan Berk Koch
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