This article was originally published on the Boundary Community Hospital Website. Visit the website for some amazing additional historic information.

Millions of lives are saved each year with modern medicine.  Yet millions still die. In the 16th century, 30% of children died before the age of 15 from measles, diphtheria, or whooping cough. The 17th century saw the death of nearly 80% of the American Native population from smallpox and measles brought from the European settlers. In the 1900s Influenza and pneumonia were the number one killers.  These diseases are prevented today with vaccines.

Vaccines save lives: 

In 1796, British surgeon Edward Jenner invented the smallpox vaccine, the world’s first vaccine against any disease. Widespread rollout of Jenner’s vaccine across Europe and North America saw that smallpox was almost completely eliminated by the first half of the 20th century. Efforts were intensified in 1966 to the rest of the world and finally, by 1977, the last known case was identified in Somalia.  A disease that once caused millions of deaths around the world simply does not exist anymore.

The measles vaccine was developed in 1963 and the illness went from 400,000 cases in the United States each year to 25,000 in 1970. In 2000 when international distributions of measles vaccine were rolled out, the numbers went from 600,000 cases in 2000 to 122,000 cases in 2012.

Herd Immunity:

There is a concept called Herd Immunity. It works when there are enough people vaccinated against a disease, then even those unable to get the vaccine are protected. You protect others by protecting yourself. Smallpox is proof that Herd Immunity works. Smallpox is the only disease that has been eradicated so far but it’s entirely possible to eradicate all of the nearly 30 diseases that have vaccinations including Ebola.

In 1918 the Pandemic flu that hit worldwide affected even our rural neighborhood.  It infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide and killed nearly 675,000 in the US alone.

According to the Idaho Health and Welfare “Rural Idaho suffered terribly from the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. The mortality rate was nearly 50% in Paris, Idaho. Quarantines had no real impact on the spread of the disease. While influenza rates lessened during the late fall, it was not until the summer of 1919 that the disease began to disappear from the state. In Idaho, out of a reported Native American population of 4,208, there were 650 influenza cases and 75 deaths (case mortality of 11.5%).”

The flu vaccine was developed in 1938 by Jonas Salk and Thomas Francis.  It was first given to the U. S. military forces to protect the soldiers during World War II. With Herd Immunity, we may avoid another Pandemic.

Do more for your community:

Vaccine-prevented diseases are making a comeback. Individuals can be more vulnerable when everyone is not immune. Many healthcare facilities now make it mandatory for their employees to get the annual flu vaccine. They do it to protect you.  Do what you can to protect your community.

  • Get your flu vaccine.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Get your child up to date on their vaccines.

Remember, you can’t spread it if you can’t catch it.

Visit the Boundary Community Hospital website to read more.