The Power of Vaccines

Remember polio? Measles? Diphtheria? Smallpox? You may have encountered them as a child, or perhaps these diseases had already been obliterated when you were growing up.  All of them were highly contagious, serious illnesses that caused everything from encephalitis to paralysis to death. Along with other scourges, most were eradicated due to the vaccines that were developed to prevent them.

Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent many serious and potentially deadly diseases. By protecting you and others in your community, they help reduce or even eliminate some diseases—if enough people are vaccinated. Most of us are unaware of the number of highly effective vaccines that have been developed since 1796 when Edward Jenner used the scientific method to test a procedure to protect against smallpox. Although he did not invent this method, Jenner is often considered the father of vaccines.

What follows is a list of serious diseases for which we now have vaccines:

Haemophilus influenza type b (HIB)
Hepatitis A
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
Pneumococcal pneumonia

Of the six diseases described below, only COVID-19 and Shingles have not yet been eradicated.

  • COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) is a disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The disease most often causes respiratory symptoms that can feel much like a cold, the flu, or pneumonia. Other parts of your body may also be affected.
  • Diphtheria is a respiratory disease that can cause breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, and death. It’s highly contagious and is spread by coughing and sneezing.
  • Measles is a contagious disease that causes fever, a red rash, cough, and red eyes. It can have serious complications such as encephalitis, which itself can cause hearing loss.
  • Polio is a disabling and life-threatening disease viral disease that affects the spinal cord causing muscle weakness and paralysis.
  • Shingles are a viral infection that causes a painful rash. often appears as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or the right side of your torso. Shingles are caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.
  • Smallpox is a serious, life-threatening illness that causes pus-filled blisters (pustules) to develop on the skin. Since the late 1970s, there haven’t been any confirmed cases of smallpox.