Batuhan: Vaccine skepticism

·3 min read

“The story of vaccines did not begin with the first vaccine–Edward Jenner’s use of material from cowpox pustules to provide protection against smallpox. Rather, it begins with the long history of infectious disease in humans, and in particular, with early uses of smallpox material to provide immunity to that disease.

Evidence exists that the Chinese employed smallpox inoculation (or variolation, as such use of smallpox material was called) as early as 1000 CE. It was practiced in Africa and Turkey as well, before it spread to Europe and the Americas.

Edward Jenner’s innovations, begun with his successful 1796 use of cowpox material to create immunity to smallpox, quickly made the practice widespread. His method underwent medical and technological changes over the next 200 years, and eventually resulted in the eradication of smallpox.” (“The History of Vaccines,” An Educational Resource by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia)

“And what was smallpox which the miracle of vaccines eradicated for good? “Smallpox is a contagious, disfiguring and often deadly disease that has affected humans for thousands of years. Naturally occurring smallpox was wiped out worldwide by 1980 — the result of an unprecedented global immunization campaign. Samples of smallpox virus have been kept for research purposes.” (“Smallpox, The Mayo Clinic, 22 Sept. 2020)

The deadly disease of smallpox had been around for as long probably as man has been, and the Chinese were already using some vaccine-like treatments for it millennia before the birth of Christ. So vaccines, or at least some form of them, have also been around for almost as long as deadly human diseases have been around. Because of them, the world is a much safer place today – free from the scourge not only of smallpox, but also once common and serious diseases like polio, measles, and many more.

Today, vaccines continue to protect the most vulnerable from succumbing to the debilitating effects of various diseases. Vaccination also guards the economy from unwanted disruptions caused by large losses in productivity, as it protects people from seasonal illnesses like the flu.

Having such a long and remarkable history of protecting man from disease, it should not therefore have been such a massive leap of faith to assume that our collective way out of the current Covid-19 pandemic would be through mass inoculation of our populations, much as this was the means by which we as a species managed to rid ourselves of serious afflictions in the past.

Unless of course, you listen to those who think that vaccines are the disease, rather than the cure. Yes, these people exist, and not all of them are simpletons. Many are learned and “intelligent” in their own right, but for some inexplicable reason they have managed to convince themselves that even dying from Covid is not enough to convince them that vaccines are our ticket to ending this global isolation once and for all.

How did this happen to a world that should now be so steeped in science, that the efficacy and safety of vaccines should not anymore be the subject of great suspicion? Blame politics. After all, Donald Trump and his supporters made such a big fuss about conflating ideology and disease, it almost seemed inevitable that this would also confuse the subject of vaccines for their followers. Blame social media. With such misinformation at everyone’s fingertips, there is no shortage of fearmongering for those who thrive on spreading lies and falsehoods. Blame whoever your favorite scapegoat happens to be.

One thing is certain, however. Protection in large numbers from this disease is the only way we can hope to resume normal lives again, and the sooner everyone gets this in their skeptical heads, the quicker it will be for the all of us to resume our lives as normal social beings again.

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