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15 Incredible Facts about Vaccines and Immunizations

In the early 1980s tens of thousands of chicken heads rained down in the Alps in the name of science.

Facts about Vaccines

Vaccines play an important role in keeping the public safe and healthy. There are 4 main types of vaccines: live-attenuated vaccines, inactivated vaccines, toxoid vaccines, and subunit, recombinant, polysaccharide, and conjugate vaccines. Vaccine and Immunization are often used interchangeably but there is a difference. A vaccination is the act of introducing a vaccine into the body to produce immunity to a specific disease. Immunization is the process by which that person is protected because they were vaccinated.

2020 brought an unprecedented push for a vaccine. With hopes of a vaccine for Covid-19 coming by the end of the year or early 2021, we thought it would be good to share some interesting facts about vaccines.

Facts about Vaccines and Immunizations:

  1. The United Kingdom virtually eliminated salmonella by vaccinating chickens. Nearly a decade ago, thousands of Britains were sickened from salmonella in infected eggs. To combat the crisis, farmers in the UK began vaccinating their hens against the bacteria. That simple but decisive step virtually wiped out the health threat; the U.S. has declined to mandate such vaccinations.
  2. Microbiologist Maurice Hilleman is credited with saving more lives than any other scientist of the 20th century. Dr. Hilleman developed more than 40 vaccines, including measles, mumps, chickenpox, pneumonia, meningitis, and hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and more. The measles vaccine alone has prevented over one million deaths. His vaccines have been responsible for saving millions of lives and with eradicating common childhood diseases.
  3. Seattle has a lower rate of child Polio vaccination than Rwanda. In 2015, Seattle news outlets reported that polio vaccination rates in the city hit a low of 81.4%. That is worse than the rates in Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and the Sudan according to data from the World Health Organization.
  4. The study that suggested there was a link between autism and vaccines was proven to be a complete fraud. In 1998, now discredited physician-researcher Andrew Wakefield published findings that indicated there was a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and autism. This ignited an anti-vaccine movement in which parents increasingly opted out of vaccines and fueled a dangerous push of vaccine skepticism. Wakefield eventually had his medical license revoked and the study has been thoroughly debunked many times over. However, many people who lack the facts about vaccines still feel the link exists.
  5. The first vaccine to be developed against a contagious disease was the smallpox vaccine in 1796. Edward Jenner is considered the founder of vaccinology after he inoculated an eight-year-old boy with a vaccinia virus (cowpox) and demonstrated immunity to smallpox.
  6. Smallpox is the first (and only) infectious disease to have ever been eradicated. The last known natural case of smallpox occurred in Somalia in 1977. Smallpox was officially declared eradicated by the World Health Organization in 1979.
  7. Polio has been eradicated in all continents except Asia. Polio has nearly been wiped out by a global vaccination effort. Once an epidemic in the early 1900s, polio would paralyze or kill over half a million people worldwide every year. Today, only two polio-endemic countries (countries that have never interrupted the transmission of wild poliovirus) remain—Afghanistan and Pakistan. The United States has been polio-free since 1979.
  8. Jonas Salk, who developed one of the first successful polio vaccines, never patented the vaccine. In 1955, the vaccine was deemed “safe, effective, and potent,” and when asked who owned the patent Salk declared – “Well, the people, I would say.” As a result, he missed out on earning an estimated $7 billion.
  9. A vaccine for Lyme disease was pulled from the market after the manufacturer was sued by anti-vaccine groups. From 1999 to 2002, GlaxoSmithKline sold a Lyme vaccine called LYMErix. The company pulled LYMErix off the market citing insufficient consumer demand. In reality consumer backlash and a spate of lawsuits doomed the vaccine. So while your dog can get vaccinated for Lyme disease, you cannot.
  10. In Switzerland, scientists air-dropped vaccine-infused chicken heads in the Swiss Alps to combat a rabies epidemic. A massive rabies epidemic spread by red foxes reached Switzerland in the late 1960s. From 1979 to 1984, over 52,000 chicken heads rained down on the countryside as bait for rabid foxes. The plan worked and the strategy spread to other parts of Europe. Switzerland has been rabies free since the 1990s.
  11. More than 1.5 million people worldwide die from vaccine-preventable diseases each year. While the WHO estimates that between 2 and 3 million deaths are prevented each year through immunization, there are still several countries with a low confidence in vaccines. A 2019 study showed that in France one-third of people disagreed that vaccines were safe. Gabon, Togo, and Russia we next on the list in the low confidence level of vaccines. The WHO reports that there are vaccines available to prevent, or contribute to the prevention and control of, 27 preventable infections.
  12. Because they weren’t vaccinated, five puppies died while on location for the filming of the 2008 Disney film ‘Snow Buddies’. Most of the dogs contracted Parvovirus, also known as parvo – a highly contagious viral infection in dogs.
  13. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services believed an HIV vaccine was going to be ready by 1986. The first cases of HIV were identified in 1981. A few years later on April 23, 1984, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler expressed hope that a vaccine against AIDS could be produced within two years. To date, there is still no vaccine though there are many vaccines trials in progress around the world. On December 1st, 1988, the WHO declared December 1st to be World AIDS Day.
  14. In the 1990s, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) required that military personnel receive the Anthrax vaccine. The United States military created an anthrax vaccine immunization program due to increased concern about the use of biological weapons against troops who have been deployed. Troops were given the anthrax vaccine in the Gulf War in the early part of the 90s. A larger program to vaccinate all service members was begun in 1998. However, the Food and Drug Administration had not yet tested the vaccine for use against inhalation anthrax. By 2004, the U.S. military was ordered by the courts to stop the inoculation of troops with anthrax vaccine adsorbed, or AVA, until the Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine as safe for general use.
  15. A vaccine usually takes anywhere from 5 to 10 years to develop…sometimes longer. In the U.S., vaccine development has to follow a specific set of steps. These steps include exploratory phases, pre-clinical trials, new drug application, vaccine trials, and vetting from the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. The process can take years. For example, the link between Human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer was first made in 1981, it took over two decades of research before a viable vaccine hit the market. Hepatitis B was discovered by Dr. Baruch Blumberg in 1965. He created the first hepatitis B vaccine four years later. Twelve years later the FDA approved of the first commercially available hepatitis B vaccination.

Now that you know a few fun facts about Vaccines, try reading about these fun facts about sleep.

Also, go ahead and share some interesting and fun facts about Vaccines and Immunizations that we might have missed below in the comments.

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