Interesting Facts about Vaccines

Vaccines have become an inherent part of the healthcare system of any country. It is mostly part of the law to have individuals in your family vaccinated as vaccines provide immunization against tons of diseases that otherwise endanger the population. Vaccination programs are an essential part of public health policy as governing bodies strive to ensure the availability and ease of such programs.

Countries have successfully brought down high infant and child mortality rates by implementing efficient immunization programs, especially for pediatric care. Vaccines are preventive rather than curative. They have biological particles that trigger the exact mechanism of the body’s immune system against any disease beforehand, helping the body be prepared for any impending danger.

1. First-ever Vaccines Were Prepared and Introduced Way before the Discovery of Viruses 

Edward Jenner was the first physician ever (1749-1823) who prepared vaccines. He was a British surgeon who invented the idea of making immunization vaccines for smallpox, which killed over 300 million people worldwide during the 20th century by using cowpox. He is the pioneer of vaccines in the Western World.

2. Variolation was the Method of Immunization before Vaccination Was Introduced and Practiced 

Variolation was used to combat deadly smallpox. It implies a method quite similar to vaccination, in which a person is intentionally injected with some trace materials of smallpox. This practice was common in China during the 16th century to prepare bodies for smallpox attacks. Variolation involved using a lancet or a needle that injected pulverized and dried trace materials of smallpox into the skin.

3. Louis Pasteur is the Father of Laboratory-Made Vaccines 

French medical expert Louis Pasteur held a prominent position in the medical academia during the late 1800s. His contribution to immunology theory is matchless and respected globally as it conceptualized the modern immunization process through laboratory-prepared vaccines.

Pasteur’s first-ever discovery of vaccination was in 1879 when he was studying to combat a disease named chicken cholera. He accidentally discovered what he was looking for while inoculating chickens for this disease. After discovering that chickens inoculated with attenuated form posed resistance to the virulent strain, Pasteur directed all his energy and attention toward the immunization process and vaccination development concerns.

4. Polio Outbreak in the 1950s Crippled Societies 

The Polio outbreak in the 1950s spread extreme fear in people. The public places closed due to fear, and people stopped meeting each other for fear of catching the poliovirus. The children were left crippled, and it took the life out of their parents as they were helpless.

5. Among the Vaccine Types, Vaccines with Weakened Virus Suspensions are the Most Effective 

Prevention and protection from different diseases require different types of vaccines. The most effective vaccine type of all is the live-attenuated vaccine – containing a weakened or attenuated form of the virus. This type of vaccination help provides stronger immunity against the target diseases as it has a very weakened but live state of the germ or virus, thus, producing an actual defense action from the body. Therefore, the protection from live-attenuated vaccines is the strongest.

However, for the same reason which makes it most effective, this type of vaccine should always be provided with caution and proper consultation by the physician. It is not suitable for people with a weakened immune system or ones with long-standing health problems.

6. Moderna was the first vaccine-producing company that prepared mRNA vaccines 

Katalin Kariko was the visionary behind the idea of mRNA vaccines. She was a Hungarian doctor who came to the US in 1985. According to her vision, mRNA or messenger RNA is the basic code of human life and the body.

After partnering with Drew Weismann from the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Kariko successfully developed an efficient HIV mRNA vaccine. Moderna was founded in 2010 to pursue Weismann and Kariko’s work on mRNA vaccines.

7. Smallpox killed almost 90% of the Native Americans 

Smallpox originally started in Europe and spread among Native Americans, soaring the mortality and morbidity rates in the country. The first few cases of the smallpox epidemic surfaced in Hispaniola around 1518 and wildly spread all across Mexico.

The Americans had never experienced any disease of such a vast extent before. This virus killed almost 90% of the Native Americans and tore the continent apart. It is believed that a Spanish ship carrying infected enslaved Africans from Cuba was the one bringing this deadly disease to the continent. [1]

8. The United States is Now Free of Smallpox 

The United States had its last natural outbreak of smallpox in 1949, and since then, there has been no case of this deadly disease in the country. Thanks to the relentless immunization efforts, the US completely eradicated smallpox in 1950.

The last natural outbreak of smallpox was noted in 1977. According to the World Health Assembly, any case of smallpox anywhere is supposed to be declared an emergency. [2]

9. The Polio Outbreak in the United States Occurred in 1849

The first-ever case of a polio outbreak in the US occurred in Vermont in 1849. It quickly became a highly infectious disease attacking children under five years. It typically spreads through contaminated water from the infected person to the others.

The first outbreak of this epidemic in the US caused 18 deaths and about 132 permanent paralysis cases, as per the official reports. [3]

10. Three Countries Still Had Poliovirus Active in Their Population till 2003

Though India has now entirely eradicated the poliovirus from its population, it had remnants of the virus till 2003. Other countries still battling this infectious and crippling virus include Pakistan and Afghanistan. This global situation renders the whole world at risk. [4]

11. Measles Surged in 2019, With About 23 Reported Cases 

Between 2016 and 2019, the rates of people infected with measles rose to dangerous numbers as the reported cases reached 23 and the death rate surged to 50%. In 2019, the world witnessed about 869,770 cases of measles which is the highest record since 1996, according to WHO. [5]

12. Measles Vaccines Have Saved About 31 Million Lives Globally in 20 Years Since 2000

After the previous depressing one, an uplifting fact is that the measles vaccine is highly effective. It has saved more than 31 million lives across the globe, according to the data from 2000 to 2020.

13. The Middle Atlantic Region Was Worst Hit by the Recent Outbreak of Measles in the US 

In 2019, as the measles outbreak again took a toll, the Middle Atlantic region of the US emerged as the worst-hit region. Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease, so it is shocking and disturbing to witness such high rates of outbreaks again in recent times.

Although healthcare officials had declared that the US was free from any future measles outbreaks back in 2000, about 31 cases of measles were reported in the country in 2019. [6]

14. Trends in the Invasive Haemophilus Influenza Disease Reflect the Effectiveness of Vaccines 

According to the medical data by NCBI, the Hib virus has reduced to about 1.70 cases for every 100,000 population. The vaccine for this virus was introduced in the 1980s. As a result, the Hib disease in the young population decreased significantly. [7]

15. Tetanus is Responsible for About 5 To 7% of Neonatal Deaths Worldwide 

Tetanus is a neonatal disease that also affects mothers. It causes approximately 213,000 to 293,000 neonatal and maternal deaths worldwide annually. [8]

16. The Tetanus Vaccine Is Highly Effective In Controlling and Preventing This Disease from Crippling the Population 

According to the data, the tetanus vaccine has allowed tremendous control over the spread of this disease. As a result, there has been about an 89% reduction in tetanus cases globally since 1990.

17. The United States has Not Sustained Any Deaths by Tetanus Since 1996

Tetanus is a potentially fatal disease characterized by muscle rigidity and convulsive spasms. It is a non-communicable disease and spreads through human excreta. The United States has suffered about 19 deaths from 264 cases of tetanus. [9]

18. About 82% of the American Population Has Been Administered the Third Dose of Hepatitis B Vaccination

Hepatitis B is another viral infection that affects the liver. Immunization vaccines for hepatitis B in infants have also been introduced in the US by 2020. This vaccination drive has taken the hepatitis B vaccination coverage statistics in the American population to about 83%. [10]

19. Due to the Various Vaccination Programs for 20 Years, Several Diseases Have Been Controlled and Prevented 

A successful vaccination drive has successfully prevented conditions such as diphtheria, measles, pertussis, polio, rubella, and neonatal tetanus. Neonatal, infant, and adult mortality rates have also been controlled due to these vaccination drives.

20. Vaccines Prevent About 3 Million Deaths Annually 

With successful and effective vaccines, healthcare professionals have been able to control and prevent several deadly diseases. According to world data, about 2 to 3 million deaths are avoided due to vaccine drives every year. [11]

Prevention is Way Better than Cure 

We have heard this cliché numerous times throughout our lives. The cure is undoubtedly the only possible way to treat any disease one is afflicted with. However, vaccination advocates state that if there is a way to prevent an infection from afflicting a person or a fetus, it is way better than a cure. Given the interesting facts about vaccines and several epidemic diseases, this cliché appears to be true.

References 

  1. https://www.pbs.org/gunsgermssteel/variables/smallpox.html.
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/smallpox/index.html
  3. https://amhistory.si.edu/polio/timeline/index.htm
  4. https://polioeradication.org/where-we-work/polio-endemic-countries/
  5. https://www.who.int/news/item/12-11-2020-worldwide-measles-deaths-climb-50-from-2016-to-2019-claiming-over-207-500-lives-in-2019
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/measles/data/global-measles-outbreaks.html
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6181225/
  8. https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-017-4111-4
  9. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/surv-manual/chpt16-tetanus.html
  10. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1063711/americas-vaccine-coverage-vs-global-by-vaccine-type/
  11. https://ourworldindata.org/vaccination