Vaccines – The Verdict is in.

First of all, a definition: “A vaccine is a biological preparation that provides active acquired immunity for a particular infectious disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe, its toxins, or one of its surface proteins. The agent stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize the agent as a threat, destroy it, and to further recognize and destroy any of the microorganisms associated with that agent that it may encounter in the future. Vaccines can be prophylactic (to prevent or ameliorate the effects of a future infection by a natural or “wild” pathogen), or therapeutic (to fight a disease that has already occurred, such as cancer)”….. Wikipedia

And a little history: “The terms vaccine and vaccination are derived from Variolae vaccinae (smallpox of the cow), the term devised by Edward Jenner (who both developed the concept of vaccines and created the first vaccine) to denote cowpox. He used the phrase in 1798 for the long title of his Inquiry into the Variolae vaccinae Known as the Cow Pox, in which he described the protective effect of cowpox against Smallpox. In 1881, to honor Jenner, Louis Pasteur proposed that the terms should be extended to cover the new protective inoculations then being developed.”  …Wikipedia

How they work: There is overwhelming scientific consensus that vaccines are a very safe and effective way to fight and eradicate infectious diseases. The immune system recognizes vaccine agents as foreign, destroys them, and “remembers” them. When the virulent version of an agent is encountered, the body recognizes the protein coat on the virus, and thus is prepared to respond, by first neutralizing the target agent before it can enter cells, and secondly by recognizing and destroying infected cells before that agent can multiply to vast numbers.”……..  Wikipedia

A List of Vaccines:

  • Adenovirus
  • Anthrax
  • Cholera
  • Diphtheria
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Haemophilus Influenza
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Seasonal Influenza
  • Japanese Encephalitis
  • Measles
  • Meningococcal
  • Mumps
  • Pertussis
  • Pneumococcal
  • Polio
  • Rabies
  • Rotovirus
  • Rubella
  • Shingles
  • Smallpox
  • Tetanus
  • Tuberculosis
  • Typhoid Fever
  • Varicella
  • Yellow Fever

Centers for Disase Control and Prevention, recommends routine vaccination of children against Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Polio, Mumps, Measles, Rubella, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Chickenpox, Rotovirus, Influenza, Meningococcal Disease and Pneumonia. When it comes to death and disease the military knows the score. On the battlefield the military suffer more casualties from disease than from bullets, bombs and enemy activities. Vaccines are an essential tool in maintaining healthy, fit fighting units.

Wars, Disease and Natural Disasters

That’s the way it was –…….. medical skills were in great demand as a succession of diseases – influenza, mumps, whooping cough, scarlet fever, measles, smallpox and cholera ravaged the Canadian North-West between 1830 and 1850. Influenza epidemics occurred six times in that twenty year period. The largest toil was on women, because they were the main care givers, and on the children and elderly because they were the most venerable. In 1842 to 1843, a whooping cough epidemic was immediately followed by Scarlet Fever…… The outbreak was  followed by another fever in 1844, and many more died from the unnamed scourge. Mortality rates from Measles epidemic of 1846-1847 was very high and complications from the disease added to the heavy loss of life. In 1846, in the Red River Valley, three epidemics hit in quick succession – influenza, measles and cholera.” ………. from Jean Teillet’s The North-West is Our Mother (A History of the Metis Natkion ).    As I said that’s the way it was. Of course improvements to basic hygiene and sanitation has had an impact but the advances in vaccines and vaccination also had a large positive effect on the health in the Canadian North-West and across the world. By the time my generation came to the fore in the mid to late twentieth century most of the “water-borne ” and childhood diseases in the modern world had been largely defeated. Within my life time the following major medical successes were achieved.

  • Smallpox – The world wide eradication of Smallpox, largely by vaccination in the late 20th century, is one of the major triumphs of modern medicine. The disease has a mortality rate of around 30% in adults and higher in babies. Often those who survived had extensive scaring of their skin, and some were left blind, The last naturally occurring case was diagnosed in October 1977, and the WHO certified the global eradication of the disease in 1980. Smallpox outbreaks have occurred though out recorded history and is one of the diseases responsible for the decimation of native populations in the new world. The disease is responsible for 300  million deaths in the 20th century and as late as 1967 fifteen million cases were occurring each year. Smallpox is one of two infectious diseases to have been eradicated, the other being rinderpest in 2011. Rinderpest is a devastating viral infection that infects livestock.
  • Polio – Poliomyelitis, commonly shortened to polio, is an infectious disease caused by the polio virus. Epidemics of the disease have occurred though out modern history and a its peak in the 1940s and 1950s, polio would paralyze or kill over half a million people worldwide every year. The development of two polio vaccines has eliminated wild poliomyelitis in all but two countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan). This is another stunning success for vaccines. In my youth parents lived in fear of the polio virus infecting their children.
  • Rubella also known as German measles or three-day measles, is an infection caused by the rubella virus. This disease, while very contagious,  is often mild with half of people not realizing that they are infected. It is a common infection in many parts of the world . Rubella. In the early days of medicine it was not considered a particularly toxic infection. However, in 1940, following a widespread epidemic of rubella in Australia the ophthalmologist Norman McAllister Gregg found 78 cases of congenital cataracts in infants and 68 of them were born to mothers who had caught rubella in early pregnancy. He described a variety of problems now known as Cogenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS) and noticed that the earlier the mother was infected, the worse the damage was. CRS is the main reason a vaccine for rubella was developed. There was a pandemic of rubella between 1962 and 1965, starting in Europe and spreading to the United States. In the years 1964–65, the United States had an estimated 12.5 million rubella cases. This led to 11,000 miscarriages or therapeutic abortions and 20,000 cases of congenital rubella syndrome. Of these, 2,100 died as neonates, 12,000 were deaf, 3,580 were blind, and 1,800 were intellectually disabled. In New York alone, CRS affected 1% of all births.The virus was isolated in tissue culture in 1962 by two separate groups led by physicians Paul Douglas Parkman and Thomas  Huckle Weller. In 1969, a live attenuated virus vaccine was licensed.In the early 1970s, a triple vaccine containing attenuated measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) viruses was introduced. By 2006, confirmed cases in the Americas had dropped below 3000 a year. Rates of disease have decreased in many areas as a result of vaccination.There are ongoing efforts to eliminate the disease globally. In April 2015 the WHO declared the Americas free of rubella transmission. However, a 2007 outbreak in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile pushed the cases to 13,000 that year. However, due to misinformation and aggressive anti-vaccination campaigns in recent years immunization rates have dropped and there have been some serious outbreaks in the USA. If the immunization rates can be increased there is still a possibility that the virus can be eradicated.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV). Most of us can add two and two and come up with four. Very few of us can come up with reasons why in certain situations 2+2 = 4. In disease situations epidemiologists are the folks that come up with the exact reasons why 2+2=4. Back in the day epidemiologists noted that certain population groups had low incidences of cervical cancer. On closer investigation they determined that the low incidence was associated with low levels of sexual activity, specifically that turned out to be with women in religious orders.  From that premise it was logical to come to the conclusion that a sexually transmitted infectious agent could be responsible for  cervical cancer. Eventually numerous strains of human papillomavirus were identified as the causative agent of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the United States and eventually a vaccine was developed to combat the virus and the associated diseases. Some health effects caused by HPV can be prevented by the HPV vaccines. Nearly all cases of cervical cancer  are associated with HPV infection, with two types, HPV16 and HPV18, present in 70% of cases.  It is estimated that the vaccines may prevent 70% of cervical cancer, 80% of anal cancer, 60% of  vaginal cancer, 40% of vulvar cancer   and possibly some mouth cancer, they additionally prevent some genital warts, with the quadrivalent and nonavalent vaccines that protect against HPV types HPV-6 and HPV-11 providing greater protection. The vaccine was first developed by the University of Queensland in Australia. The first HPV vaccine became available in 2006. As of 2017, 71 countries include it in their routine vaccinations, at least for girls. It is on the WHO list of essential medicines.  A number of countries have implemented nation wide vaccination programs and the African country Rwanda has an ambitious target of eliminating cervical cancer nation wide with an aggressive immunization program.

The eradication of disease and the development of vaccines continues. The current big challenge is the development and distribution of a vaccine for the Covid -19 virus. The challenge “hit the pavement” in early January and because of the spectacular applications of molecular biology to the development of  Messenger RNA vaccines the possibility of a world wide roll out of a massive immunization program is about to be realized.

However, despite all the past successes and the current positive indicators the battle is far from over. The conspiracy theorists and sceptics are in full throttle with some of the most ridiculous assertions being bandied about. “Vaccines don’t work”, “Vaccines kill more people than they save”, “Covid pandemic is a fraud , it doesn’t exist”, “it’s a plot to undermine persoanl freedoms and control the population”, “It’s big pharmacy companies out to generate massive profits” and so on…………

When the denials come to the surface remember the conspiracy play book and act and think accordingly.

In brief, the six principal plays in the conspiracy arsenal playbook are:

  1. Doubt the Science eg the doubts about climate change.
  2. Question Scientists’ Motives and Integrity eg They are only in it for the money and the prestige
  3. Magnify Disagreements among Scientists and Cite Gadflies as Authorities. eg look how long it took to defeat the tobacco companies in their denial of the link between smoking and cancer.
  4. Exaggerate Potential Harm eg vaccines kill more people than they save or vaccines cause autism. Both claims are blatantly false.
  5. Appeal to Personal Freedom, The wearing of a cloth mask infringes on my personal freedom to infect my neighbor.
  6. Reject Whatever Would Repudiate A Key Philosophy eg If I believe in the literal interpretation of the bible then evolution is not possible. On that note I would like to add there is confusion between theory and facts. The Theory of Natural Selection is a theory and has not been proven and one can be free to acknowledge or reject the premise of the theory. On the other hand evolution is a fact based on massive amounts of hard scientific data and must be held to be true.




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