Immunization has been there for ages but the first successful vaccine for immunization was the small pox vaccine which was developed by Edward Jenner in 1796 (Moore 6). During this time, small pox was one of the deadliest diseases in the world and had killed millions of people in several outbreaks that had hit parts of Europe and America. Mortality rates in the 18th century had hit almost 35 percent and there were various attempts by many scientists to fight this deadly disease at the time. Edward Jenner had been observing the trends in the development of the disease for long and he made an observation that those milkmaids that had caught cow pox were resistant to the chicken pox. Jenner acted upon this observation and developed one of the most successful vaccines in the history of mankind and this is the vaccine for small pox. He used one disease to treat the other, i.e. cowpox to treat small pox and this method of immunization received widespread condemnation especially from the clergy who saw it unethical but they were later silenced when the immunization of small pox victims using cow pox extracts proved to be a huge success. Jenner demonstrated the effectiveness of cowpox in the treatment of small pox however he was no the first to discover the relationship between small pox and cow pox. His contemporary, Benjamin Jetsy had tried to use extracts from the udder of cows that were infested with small pox to protect his family. It proved to be useful because his family remained free of disease. His attempts remained at a family scale and did not pass as immunization. It was Jenner, oblivious of the fact that Jetsy had tried with the cow pox that devoted his time to research on this relationship using scientific means and it his relentless promotion of this mode of immunization that brought remarkable changes in the field of medicine (Lakhani 757).
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His discovery and promotion of this vaccine reduced mortality due to small pox markedly.
After Jenner's efforts to eradicate small pox, and protect the lives of humans form the deadly disease, there have been more attempts to eliminate small pox using immunization. When the Spanish invaded the American region, they brought small pox to America and it led to the decimation of lives on an unprecedented scale. In 1803, the Spanish crown started huge immunization programs in their overseas territories in central and South America. Vaccines were transported all the way from Europe to be used in the mass vaccination programs to counter the malady which was quicly spreading, decimating populations. By 1817, small pox immunization reached the British colony of indie and Indianan vaccinators supervised by European health officials drove the immunization campaign, later afterwards the UK banned inoculation and introduced compulsory immunization against small pox. As these programs went on, there was marked development on the nature of the vaccine which made it more effective than the vaccine Jenner had introduced some years before. These developments in the vaccine led to a marked decline in the cases of small pox. By 1900, small pox had been eliminated in a number of countries especially in the northern side of Europe
The issue of life long immunity to small pox arose in the late 19the century when it was discovered that the available vaccine did not guarantee life long immunity and that there were chances of re infection. What used to happen is that there was subsequent re- immunization of people to avoid re infection. Though the rates of mortality from small pox had declined, the disease was not fully under control and researchers got into action to develop vaccines that would completely eradicate this dangerous disease.
This led to enactment of a number of control measures that included new versions of immunization programs that were geared towards wiping out disease in the world. In 1950, the pan American health organization started a campaign to roll out new immunization programs for small pox which had resurfaced, killing more than 2 million people annually. The campaign was meant to mitigate the spreading of the disease meaning that each outbreak had to be prevented from spreading. This was done by isolation of the infected and immunization using the newer version of the vaccine which had longer immunity periods. Immunization with this vaccine guaranteed leer chances of re infection and this was the first step towards total eradication of the disease. The process of ring vaccination was initiated by the world health organization in the 1950s and the most effective strategy that was surveillance and monitoring of the contained victim in order to stop the spread. Massive production of the small pox vaccine started in the late fifties by the US and the Soviet Union and this led to the immense availability of vaccines for immunization around the world (Hopkins 77). By 1960 even the developing countries were producing their own small pox vaccines had stared their own domestic immunization programs aimed at countering small pox. The only outbreak in the 1960s took place in Sweden but was rapidly arrested due to the wide range of vaccines available for immunization of the local population against the diseases, however, there was a major outbreak in Yugoslavia in the mid seventies and this the outbreak that led to the development of a new immunization program using a hybrid of vaccines. Though 35 people died, the re vaccination program that followed, using the new hybrid vaccines led to the management of the diseases at an unprecedented fast rate. By 1975, the world was almost free of small pox except Somalia and Ethiopia, whose poor infrastructure and political instability hindered immunization efforts. However, a massive immunization program in the horn of Africa spearheaded by the world health organization and the US government saw the wiping out of the disease in this north east African region.
By 1980, the world health organization had conducted verification activities around the world and concluded that the world was free of small pox. Eminent scientists endorsed the resolution by the world health organization which after considering the results of the global immunization and eradication program against small pox, indicated that its efforts had borne fruits and the world was now free of small pox.
The small pox may be long gone, and there has been few research initiatives undertaken into the study of the disease since the 1980s. Many of the contemporary scientists never witnessed the disease and neither have they been involved in the study of the disease. Few efforts have been made to upgrade the vaccine for the disease and this is a very dangerous position for the world (Sepkowitz 55). There are fears that the disease may break again sometimes in the future and the consequences may be very dire. This is because the outbreak may find the people unprepared to tackle the disease meaning that the initial phase of the outbreak might decimate populations on a larger scale. The vaccine that Edward Jenner made in the eighteenth century may be too weak to handle a modern small pox and the research initiatives of the sixties, seventies and fifties may also be too outdated to solve a contemporary outbreak.
It is time that scientists and medics went back to the drawing board and devise modern vaccines that can be used in case of a return of this highly deadly disease. It would be grave to wait until there is such an outbreak to start research into the development of vaccines for modern day immunization programs because by the time a solution is found, the disease could have wiped out thousands of people (Henderson et al 2130). The return of the disease can be mitigated by a world wide immunization program as one of the preventative measure to ensure that the word is safe from a return of small pox.
In conclusion, the road to the fighting and eradication of small pox has been long and riddled with failures and successes. Despite all the developments done in the advancement of the small pox vaccine, some man that takes al the credit is Edward Jenner because he remains the father of the small pox vaccine. Were it not for his discovery in the early 18th century, the diseases would have wiped away the whole world.