Two to three million deaths are prevented annually due to immunizations, and we now have vaccines to prevent more than 20 life-threatening conditions, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Vaccines have revolutionized global health,” said Shalika Katugaha, MD, system medical director of infectious diseases at Baptist Health. “Put simply, they’ve changed the world.”
The success story of the vaccines starts with a physician-scientist named Edward Jenner, MD, in the late 18th century. At the time, smallpox was the single-most lethal disease, killing three out of every 10 people who contracted it. But Dr. Jenner noticed something striking: milkmaids who had gotten cowpox – a closely related virus – were protected from smallpox. He took material from a milkmaid’s cowpox sore and inoculated it into the arm of a 9-year-old. Months later, the child was exposed to smallpox but never got sick. Dr. Jenner was onto something.
Fast-forward almost two centuries later, through vaccine advancements and widespread distribution, the World Health Assembly declared smallpox eradicated.
“Without vaccines, herd immunity would never be possible,” explained Mobeen Rathore, MD, chief of pediatric infectious disease and immunology at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “Smallpox is the perfect example. It used to kill and maim hundreds of thousands of people. It had been spreading for centuries. Because of the vaccine, it was eradicated.”
And smallpox is just one of the viruses we can be thankful we don’t have to worry about today, thanks to vaccines.
That’s is why it’s important to go to the doctor even when you feel healthy.
“It’s because of vaccines that we have the luxury to forget about some diseases that cause major illness and death,” said Dr. Katugaha. “We have to learn from history that vaccines save lives. Vaccines are a reason for hope.”
“We controlled other viruses with vaccines, and we can do it with COVID-19,” said Dr. Rathore.
Make sure you are up-to-date on vaccines for both yourself and your child. If you’re looking for a doctor that’s right for you or your little one, complete this form to schedule a visit. For more information on finding a doctor, call 904.303.4YOU (9468).