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10 Things you Never Knew About Vaccines

New vaccines are in research every year, but what does the data show? Since 1855, some states have required vaccinations for children to attend public schools. Starting will smallpox, a plethora of other diseases are now preventable.

#1: The MMR shot has saved more than 23 million lives since 2000.

Measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines came out in the 1960s and 1970s, and were combined into a single shot in 1971 to make the classic MMR vaccine. Measles has the potential to cause dangerous swelling of the brain and infect the lungs causing a hacking cough. Mumps can causes inflammation of a variety of reproductive organs, and Rubella can cause deafness, cataracts, heart defects, intellectual disabilities, arthritis, low vision, and other organ damage.

Infants born to mothers with rubella infections can continue to shed the virus in their oral secretions for more than a year after birth. This can contribute to spread of the virus in nearby communities. The MMR vaccine providers 99% protection against measles, 95% against mumps, and 90% against rubella.

#2: A universal flu vaccine is in the works

Each year, scientists have to predict which strains of the seasonal flu will cause the most problems. This leads to the flu shot only being 10-60% effective any given year. The flu leads to hundreds of thousands of deaths, but a universal flu vaccine would provide at least 75% effectiveness for all ages against influenza A. The ideal vaccine would also work against influenza B for three to five years.

Work on the COVID-19 vaccines has hastened the research, which shows some promising results. Adenoviruses and mRNA are being studied to determine the best possible delivery of a potential universal flu vaccine to give the highest protection rates.

#3: 25-50% of all vaccines are wasted each year due to storage issues

All vaccines must be either refrigerated or frozen to maintain their effectiveness. Shipping delays, power outages, and other unforeseen issues can render vaccines unusable. Humanitarian agencies like UNICEF use solar power, mobile communication, and other technology to reduce waste. Every dollar that is invested in vaccinations pays off in economic and social benefits at a rate of $44. People miss less work, the healthcare system is less strained, and fewer medications are needed to manage symptoms.

The sustainable development goals are a global agenda focusing on eradicating poverty, solving global hunger, and improving good health and well-being. Vaccinations allow children to attend more school days, prevent some disease-related disabilities, and keep communities healthy.

#4: Some vaccines are actual oral vaccines, not injections

Oral vaccinations include typhoid, cholera, and rotavirus. Oral polio is no longer used in the United States. These vaccines come as pills, drinks, or drops. The oral vaccines are attenuated live vaccines, so you could potentially feel a little under the weather for a few days.

Oral vaccinations are easy to use for mass vaccination campaigns. Most people remember the sugar cubes providing protection against polio in the 1960s. This eliminated the requirement for needles, reducing tears and increasing acceptance of the vaccination among all ages.

#5: Vaccines don't cause autism

Some people believe vaccines cause autism or more specifically, the MMR shot. The MMR vaccine is given between 12-15 months for the first dose, and a second dose at 4-6 years old. In a prospective study, most children with autism showed signs of developmental regression between 12-24 months old.

When parents look back to see "what changed," they think the MMR shot caused it. Researchers now believe that a mix of genetic and environmental influences contribute to an autism diagnosis. Increasing awareness, changes in diagnostic criteria, and other factors have led to the increased diagnoses. Children who probably would've never been tested for autism because it was so mild are now being diagnosed and provided services because of a lower stigma attached to diagnoses.

#6: The Royal Family was among the First to try Inoculations

Russia's Catherine the Great requested an English doctor to St. Petersburg in 1768 to administer the smallpox inoculation to her and her son. There were carriages prepped for the doctor's quick getaway if the inoculation were to go wrong, but things went smoothly and Catherine the Great was pleased.

Catherine the Great's husband, Grand Duke Piotr Fedorovich had contracted smallpox just before their wedding and it left him permanently disfigured, so Catherine the Great was interested in obtaining immunity against the disease for herself and her children.

#7: Ben Franklin lost his son to smallpox

Ben Franklin's son was four years old when he succumbed to smallpox. He greatly regretted not getting him inoculated and invested a lot into medical advancements thereafter. Franklin launched the first American medical school and created the flexible urethral catheter.

Ben Franklin found out that lead poisoning cause abdominal pain and peripheral neuropathy. His contributions to pharmacy and medicine will never be forgotten, although most people remember him for his kite experiment and electricity.

#8: George Washington mandated inoculation for the army

After thousands for Continental Army soldiers came down with smallpox after going to Canada, leaving the area in British hands, Washington decided to mandate inoculation for the army. He originally ordered that no one receive the inoculation because he didn't want his army to be out of commission while recovering.

Inoculating new recruits meant they were healed up by the time they left to join the army, and they didn't contract smallpox during their service. It was a win-win for everyone.

#9: Spain sent orphan children on a ship to provide viral material for vaccines

The technology to create vaccines was very limited, and the viral material had to come from an already-infected person. In 1803, King Carlos IV of Spain wanted to vaccinate Span's American and Philippine colonies. They sent 22 orphans on a ship to vaccinate in succession.

One child provided cowpox pus to the next, and when they eventually settled in Mexico, the captain continued his round-the-world vaccination mission for the next four years.

#10: Animal fluids found to be safer than human fluids

Scientists found that drawing infectious fluid from cows for smallpox vaccines was better than transferring pus from person to person. Pus transferred from person to person could transmit other diseases between people.

A farm in New Jersey was created to raise cows infected with cowpox. By 1897, there were six states with fourteen major vaccine farms. Dryvax, a smallpox vaccine used for most of the 20th century was derived from a vaccine farm in New York.


Vaccine variants have been around for hundreds of years. As science has evolved, they have only become more safe and more effective. This has saved millions of lives and allowed once common deformities and disabilities from preventable diseases to become very rare. Make an appointment at Away Clinic to update your routine vaccines, or to get travel vaccines for exotic destinations.


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