It is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it.
There are a number of things we do to keep ourselves in good health – eating healthy foods, exercising, practicing good personal hygiene, drinking plenty of water, annual well visits with our doctor, getting plenty of sleep, and even getting vaccines to guard us from disease.
One of the brightest chapters in the history of science is the impact of vaccines on human longevity and health. Over 300 years have elapsed since the first vaccine was discovered; Smallpox in 1798, followed by Typhoid and Cholera in 1896 and the Plague in 18971.
Vaccines have reduced and, in some cases, eliminated many diseases that killed or severely disabled people just a few generations ago.
Many diseases that used to be common can now be prevented thanks to the development of vaccines. Smallpox, which was one the worst diseases in history no longer exists2. Polio was once America’s most-feared disease, causing death and paralysis across the country, but today, thanks to vaccinations, there are no reports of polio in the United States3.
Diseases that once routinely harmed or killed have been greatly reduced even though the germs that are responsible for the diseases still exist. For example, measles was declared to be eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, however, unvaccinated travelers have gotten measles while abroad and spread the disease to others in the U.S. that were unvaccinated when they returned4.
Through vaccination, immunity is achieved without suffering from the actual diseases that vaccines prevent.
Vaccines have protected from disease and saved the lives of countless children and adults over the years. Fortunately, for the majority of us currently living in the U.S. , we have not experienced the devastating effects vaccine-preventable diseases can have.
There is a portion of the population that are not able to receive vaccines for multiple reasons – severe allergies, not old enough for vaccines or because of a weakened immune system. It is for this reason that it is important for those of us that can receive vaccines do so in order to help protect others and keep our communities in good health by preventing the spread of disease.
- History of vaccination. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Aug 26; 111(34): 12283–12287. Published online 2014 Aug 18. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1400472111
- Why Are Childhood Vaccines So Important? Page last reviewed: May 16, 2018
- Five Important Reasons to Vaccinate Your Child. Content last reviewed April 29, 2021
- Six Things YOU Need to Know about Vaccines. Page last reviewed: May 16, 2018