Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How I Would Have Died--If I Lived 100 Years Ago

Here's another of the posts from my day job on the How I Would Have Died theme:

In his Pulitzer-Prize-winning book Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies, Jared Diamond says Native Americans were killed off in massive numbers—possibly 95% of their population—by smallpox and other germs brought by settlers who would soon begin attacking the Native Americans with weapons. They eventually armed themselves, but the history of North America would have been very different if they had also been vaccinated.
I was born in 1953. My sister was born in 1955. My mother was worried sick during both pregnancies. Polio was sweeping across America, claiming more victims every year from 1920 to 1957. In 1955 Jonas Salk began widespread testing of the first effective polio vaccine. By 1957, the upward trend in polio cases had reversed. By 1960, polio had all but disappeared. 
Vaccination is one of the real triumphs of modern medicine, all but eradicating deadly diseases. But a new and disturbing trend threatens to undo centuries of progress. An anti-vaccine movement has sprung up in America based on the belief that certain vaccinations cause autism. Parents keep their children from being vaccinated and hope enough other children will be vaccinated to keep their children from contracting deadly diseases. The movement has celebrity spokespersons like Jenny McCarthy, but no support from leading researchers in the medical community.
I have five children who get all the vaccinations their doctor prescribes and I am thankful they can get them. If they couldn't, their histories may ultimately prove very different today.