Tetanus is a unique disease. It is not transmitted from person to person, and is only acquired when the infectious agent enters the body through a wound. The organism responsible for the disease, the bacteria Clostridium tetani, cannot be eradicated because it is found in the soil, intestine, and feces of humans and farm and household animals in the form of spores which are resistant to chemicals and heat and can survive decades. The pathology of the disease is caused by a potent neurotoxin released by the bacteria, so low levels of infection can be enough to cause death, and recovering from the disease does not produce immunity (there is no natural immunity). Only vaccination confers immunity to the disease. Today in the US there are about 30 cases of tetanus per year, mostly in unvaccinated individuals or those who did not receive booster shots. The video below from the folks at the Gene Technology Access Center contains excellent animations that explain the process of infection and how the pathology of this vaccine-preventable disease is produced.
We have forgotten the sheer misery and suffering that diseases that can be prevented through vaccination have inflicted upon the human race. A case in point is smallpox. The smallpox virus produced fever, skin rashes, vomiting, and diarrhea. Severe infections would lead to internal hemorrhaging, hypotension, multiorgan failure, and death. The disease had a mortality that approached 30%, and it has been estimated that smallpox killed hundreds of millions of people throughout the ages. Those who survived would be left scarred and sometimes blind for the rest of their lives.
The video below has a simple and pretty straightforward description of smallpox and the development of a vaccine against the disease.
In the second video, the campaign by the World Health Organization to eradicate smallpox is described.
The last death from smallpox occurred 42 years ago and the virus has been eliminated from the face of the Earth, with the notable exception of its presence in two research laboratories (one in the US and another in Russia). Today in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, let’s remember what we have achieved in the past, let's be hopeful about what we can achieve in the future, and let us never belittle the critical role vaccines have played and will continue to play in these achievements.
The dream of those opposed to vaccination (antivaxxers) is a world with no vaccines, which they consider harmful, unnecessary, and ineffective. Now with the coronavirus pandemic, where everyone can witness with their own eyes what the world looks like without ONE vaccine, the folly of the antivaxxer’s position will have been made crystal clear to all but the most irrational skeptics. Vaccination is necessary to make us immune to diseases, but this is only part of the story. In the video below, professor Adam Finn explains how vaccines also prevent the transmission of disease to others (herd immunity) using the example of vaccination against whooping cough (pertussis) in Great Britain.
Americans have forgotten what it was like to live in the United States before vaccines. One case in point is polio. Whereas this disease did not kill a large number of people such as was the case with tuberculosis or influenza, it left a certain percentage of those afflicted permanently disabled, and these tended to be young individuals; often children. Thanks to the polio vaccine, Americans today do not have to live with the fear parents experienced in communities afflicted by polio. Among those infected by polio who became disabled, some required a permanent aid to breathing called the iron lung. Only a few survivors of that era that still use iron lungs remain today. The video below features the story of one of these survivors, Paul Alexander.
Even though world polio cases are at an all-time low, there are still some countries in the world where continuous person to person transmission keeps taking place, and they can serve as a repository for the disease to make a comeback if vaccination were allowed to lapse.
An Unfounded fear about vaccines has led measles, a preventable disease, to make a comeback in the United States due mostly to parents refusing to vaccinate their children. Before the vaccine, measles killed 400-500 people each year in the United States. By comparison, modern vaccines are safer than not vaccinating. It is imperative that we understand how the measles virus works and what it can do to our bodies. The following video from the Seeker YouTube channel explains this simply and concisely.