This April, National Infant Immunization Week and World Immunization Week will be celebrated almost concurrently – a rare coincidence that goes to show how important immunizations and vaccinations are in our modern world.
National Infant Immunization Week, promoted by the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, will run from April 22-29, and World Immunization Week, administered by the World Health Organization, will be celebrated from April 23-29.
Though the specifics of each one of these programs differ, their goals are the same – promote vaccinations and immunizations by spreading the word of their powerful effects on our modern lives. We nurses are well aware of the power of vaccinations – and what can happen when patients don’t get their recommended immunizations.
Even 100 years ago, we were plagued by infectious diseases that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives – diseases like measles, polio, smallpox, rubella, and others. Today, almost all developed countries have eliminated these diseases entirely – and that’s entirely due to vaccination and immunizations.
So, in order to promote the value of vaccination – and dispel the unsubstantiated rumors about negative effects of immunizations in children and adults – we’ve put together a list of 5 diseases that have been almost completely eliminated by modern vaccinations in the United States.
- Smallpox – Eradicated Globally
Smallpox was the first great success story of modern vaccination. Smallpox has been estimated as responsible for around 300-500 million deaths in the 20th century alone – and it was one of the single most infectious, dangerous diseases in the modern world.
Today, however, smallpox has been completely eradicated, thanks to a comprehensive worldwide immunization and vaccination campaign. The World Health Organization began this effort in the late 1960s – and by 1984, smallpox had been completely eliminated worldwide, with only two samples of the virus held at the CDC research center in the United States, and in a VECTOR laboratory in Koltsovo, Russia.
It’s hard to overemphasize how important vaccination was in the effort to control the spread of this disease. If the smallpox vaccine had never been developed, this terrible disease could still be killing millions – but thanks to modern medicine, it has been rendered extinct – and totally harmless.
- Polio – 100% Reduction In US Cases
Polio was a huge worldwide problem before the polio vaccine was developed in the 1950s. This viral agent could infect children and damage their nervous system, causing complications like severe paralysis, infection, or even death.
Polio affected hundreds of thousands of children and adults every year. Famously, president Franklin Delano Roosevelt was affected by polio as a child – leading to nearly permanent confinement to a wheelchair.
However, the development of a comprehensive polio vaccine developed for infant and child immunization in the 1950s has had an enormous impact on the preponderance of polio. After the implementation of a polio eradication program in 1988 by the WHO. In 2017, there were only four reported cases of polio, compared to nearly 400,000 in 1980.
It’s estimated that, if efforts continue apace, polio will be totally eliminated worldwide by 2018-2020 – making it the third such illness to be totally eliminated, joining smallpox and rinderpest.