Wondering about vaccines?

If you’re on the fence about using vaccines, Ana Swanson of the Washington (DC, US) Post provided a history reminder for you. In A horrifying reminder of what life without vaccines was really like you’ll see some photos of treatment for polio before vaccination against it became routine. Ms. Swanson tips her cap to Lindsey Fitzharris

In a bigger perspective and in contrast to our squabbles about vaccination against MMR, humanity stands at the threshold of essentially eradicating polio from the Earth. In a story entitled “Polio eradicators hail historic progress, aim to ‘finish the job’” from Reuters, for example, news sources recently reported that there are very few areas where polio still occurs and it is possible that health officials can vaccinate children in those places to prevent spread of the disease. If the health officials can surround those final areas and prevent the spread of polio within them, polio will no longer survive.

In 1988, when the [Global Polio Eradication Initiative] was formed to lead a battle to wipe it out, polio was endemic in 125 countries and paralyzed nearly 1,000 children a day. Since then, thanks to huge vaccination campaigns, there has been a more than 99 percent global reduction in cases.

But the [World Health Organization]’s repeated warning is that as long as any child anywhere remains infected with polio, all children are at risk.

Latest global data show just 23 polio cases reported so far in 2015 — 22 in Pakistan and one in Afghanistan. That compares to a year-to-date total of 54 cases worldwide in 2014, and a 2014 annual count of 306.

What stands in the way of delivering the vaccines? Among others, NBC News reported that a few Pakistani parents and political and religious leaders believe that the vaccine drops are a Western conspiracy to sterilize Pakistani children. They are refusing the vaccines.

Smallpox stands as another wonderful example of the benefits vaccination. The virus, which can only survive through human transmission was eradicated using the same strategy that is being applied against polio. In 1977 the last case was found in Somalia and all people with whom he had contact had been vaccinated.

I still remember getting my vaccination against smallpox before beginning school when I lived in Manassas. I don’t know if one can still see the circular scar on my upper arm. And I remember having a series of three doses of polio vaccine. I’m glad my parents participated.

Thanks to vaccines, we don’t have to worry about keeping kids safe from smallpox and, in the US, from polio. It’s up us to keep them safe from today’s infectious diseases.

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