Growing up in the fifties and sixties, we had no vaccines for Chicken Pox, Measles or Mumps. Bizarre as it may sound, at that time the modus operandi was this: If one kid in the neighborhood contracted any of these viruses, other Moms would send their offspring over to that house so their children would be exposed and build up resistance by contracting the virus. It is a wonder we lived to tell about it!
Polio and Smallpox
My first exposure to vaccines was related to Polio and Smallpox. The County Health Department was located across the street from my Church. After doses of the Polio Vaccines became available, the Department arranged for our entire congregation to become immunized after Church one Sunday. We all marched over to the tables set up out front of the Health Department and each received our little paper cup that contained a sugar cube that was the recipient of pink drops of the vaccine. Pretty painless compared to the horrors of polio.
The Smallpox Vaccine was a different story. My Mom and I went to a doctor’s office where a nurse greeted me with a glass straw containing the vaccine in liquid form. After rubbing alcohol on my deltoid, she broke the glass straw and started pecking my arm with it- to distribute the vaccine in an area the size of a quarter. A scab formed in a day or two and you can still see the faint signs of the scar today. The scar became a source of strange pride to most elementary-aged boys. I guess we thought it was a sign of a certain toughness. Hey, it was the best we could do at that age.
By the time our daughters were born forty years ago, combo-vaccines had been developed for several of the viruses where none existed during my childhood. Niall McCarthy with Statista, in his article, How Vaccines Eradicated Common Diseases, demonstrated how effectively vaccines have benefited humanity in the chart below.
It is remarkable to me that those first two vaccines I took, Smallpox and Polio, were so effective that there were ZERO U.S. cases of either in 2019! The other viruses were greatly reduced as shown in the chart. With the exception of Pertussis (whooping cough), 98-99% of the cases were eliminated. Even Pertussis cases were reduced by 92%.
For most of us, it has become an annual ritual to go get our Flu Shot (vaccination). Because of mutations, it is not 100% effective but even if you still get the flu after the vaccine, it still seems to help mitigate the severity. The development of all of these vaccines has been instrumental in the development of vaccines for SARS, H1N1 influenza and now COVID-19.
We’ve come a long way. As Niall shared in his article, “Vaccines have been around for a long time and the first one is generally credited to Edward Jenner, an English doctor who injected pus from a cowpox pustule into an incision on an eight-year old’s arm on May 14, 1796. The boy then proved immune to smallpox, one of the deadliest diseases at that time.” Amazing! How would you like to have pus from a cowpox pustule placed into a cut on your arm?
It now appears that companies have successfully developed several vaccines against COVID-19. It is remarkable how far medical research and development has come. The idea that safe and effective vaccines for coronavirus could have been developed this quickly is unbelievable to me. I am grateful to live in a time where this could become a reality.
As always, we are here for you. Please email or call if you want to set up a Zoom videoconference meeting or talk by phone.
Rick Adkins, CFP®, ChFC, MBA
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