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The Evolution of Vaccines & A COVID-19 Vaccine Update

August 3, 2020 Pegalis Law Group

Part of being a proactive patient is keeping up-to-date with your immunization shots or vaccinations. Immunizations aren’t merely for children. It’s equally essential for adults to get them regularly to ward off various illnesses, including the flu, measles, mumps, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, and hepatitis B. You may be wondering when and where the idea for the first vaccine was developed, as well as when to expect a COVID-19 vaccine amid the current pandemic. Here’s an overview of the evolution of vaccines:

What Is a Vaccine? When Was the First Vaccine Developed?

Your body’s immune system fights germs to keep you healthy. It can remember specific germs to ward them off again. Before the advent of vaccines, your only way of becoming immune to a disease was by contracting it and surviving it. However, a vaccine helps you build immunity by injecting you with germs that have already been killed or weakened to trigger your natural immune response with less risk to your health. Although Buddhist monks and other ancient civilizations often employed similar tactics, such as drinking snake venom to build immunity to snake bites, the first modern vaccine is credited to Edward Jenner. In 1796, he successfully inoculated a 13-year-old boy with cowpox, and by 1798, the world had its first smallpox vaccine. By the 1940s, vaccines for smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough) were recommended for school-age children. The 1950s brought the much-awaited polio vaccine, while the 1960s brought about vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella. By the early 2000s, vaccines for hepatitis B, hepatitis A, influenza, and several others were also made possible.

What Obstacles Stand in the Way of Vaccinations?

Disease prevention is the goal of modern medical practitioners. Countless lives have been saved, and the spread of microbes has been thwarted globally, largely thanks to immunization efforts. However, the development and distribution of vaccines are fraught with obstacles. The public is often skeptical about vaccines until they can be proven safe and effective, and there’s been an antivaccination movement in existence since at least the 1830s. It can also be difficult to achieve the funding necessary to get trial vaccines developed and placed on the market. Finally, unless a governmental body mandates it, it can be challenging to ensure everyone who needs vaccines has equal access to them. In 1974, the World Health Organization (WHO) began the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) to increase vaccination rates for children in developing countries, an initiative which continues to this day.

When Can We Expect a COVID-19 Vaccine?

Recent headlines have indicated the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense have entered into agreements with Pfizer Inc. for the nationwide delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year. First, a COVID-19 vaccine must be proven safe and successful in three phases of large clinical trials. From there, a vaccine needs to receive an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) licensure from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Pfizer has been working closely with BioNTech, a well-known German biotechnology company, to develop a vaccine. If all goes according to plan, researchers hope to have a COVID-19 vaccine ready for mass distribution by the beginning of 2021. However, experts have also warned there may be mild side effects from the vaccination, including headaches, fever, fatigue, chills, or sore arms (similar to other vaccinations). Russian scientists are also reportedly working on a COVID-19 vaccine that could be ready as early as August 2020, though some question its safety and effectiveness due to such a speedy process.

Public Advocates for Proactive Patients for Nearly 50 Years

For nearly 50 years, Pegalis Law Group, LLC has represented New York City-area clients with personal injury and medical negligence cases. As patient safety advocates, our firm is committed to creating public awareness about the importance of being a proactive patient, including getting all the recommended vaccinations. Please visit our website and follow us on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to learn more about how you can be proactive about your family’s healthcare.