A brief history of vaccines and anti-vax responses: the history of vaccination

Published on April 3, 2022   33 min

Other Talks in the Category: Clinical Practice

0:00
My name is Michael Kinch from Washington University in St. Louis. I'm going to speak today about a brief history of vaccines and anti-vaccine responses.
0:12
The fundamental themes of today's talk are, first of all, that memories tend to be very short. Second of all, people tend to fear things that they don't understand. Putting this together, vaccines are frequently misunderstood, both in how they function and in the good that they do. This is largely because we've forgotten the threat of infectious diseases. The paradox here is that a fear of infectious diseases, which, as we will see has been a primary driver throughout human history, this fear has abated largely due to the development and adoption of vaccines. Vaccines themselves are now regarded by some people as being more dangerous than the diseases they prevent. That, again, is a combination of fear of things that people don't understand, combined with our short memory, or our failed memories, about the fact that infectious diseases have been one of the biggest problems throughout history.
1:14
If we look back on what have been the major causes of death and disease in people, the answer to this, throughout most of human history, has been infectious diseases. Pandemics are, frankly, a natural phenomena. They arise in nature every decade or two. There have been many examples. Arguably, the worst disease, as we will soon see, is something called smallpox, which was readily spread in the air, causing a very horrific disease that could take out entire villages and regions. Other significant infectious diseases include the bubonic plague, as well as a myriad of childhood infectious diseases including diphtheria, measles, tetanus, whooping cough and others. The result of these infectious diseases was high infant mortality in particular. Children oftentimes died at a very young age, but also adults tended to not live very long and they often, and generally would succumb to infectious diseases. You had a high birth rate and a high death rate combined with a short lifespan for those who were able to reach adulthood. Infectious diseases are still highly problematic in much of the developing world, and there are high rates of both vaccine preventable and unpreventable infectious diseases in the developing world. However, in the developed world, the combination of vaccines and hygiene has largely caused infectious diseases to be a thing of the past.
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A brief history of vaccines and anti-vax responses: the history of vaccination

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