Author’s note: This blog is part of a series on the current status of the Covid-19 vaccination program in the United States. All information contained herein was obtained from peer reviewed scientific journals and publications as well as legitimate vetted science-based websites. These sources are referenced such that you may obtain further information from them. All information is based on scientific facts known at the time of publication.
Patients began arriving at hospitals in Wuhan, China in December 2019 exhibiting respiratory symptoms including pneumonia of unknown etiology. The initial outbreak of this sickness was reported in a wet market and involved about half of the staff there. The market was shut down on January 1, 2020 (1).
Two months later on February 23, 2020 Wuhan was locked down to prevent further spread of the disease. The novel virus that is the causative agent of Covid-19 disease was identified in early 2020 as SARS-CoV-2 (2). On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease: coronavirus 19 disease, shortened to Covid-19 (3).
The entire world’s population has been affected by this viral disease pandemic. 2.56 million people have died worldwide, with over half a million deaths occurring in the US (cdc website – as of March 4, 2021). The disease continues to spread in the US, mostly due to people ignoring CDC recommendations to wear masks, wash their hands and stay away from crowds. Infection rate numbers are plateauing in some states but at a high level (3).
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued emergency use authorizations (EUA) for production and use of COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer- BioNTech and Moderna on December 11 and 18, 2019, respectively (4). Remarkably, these events occurred exactly one year after the first patients presented in Wuhan. In addition, the FDA issued another EUA for a COVID-19 vaccine made by Johnson and Johnson on February 27, 2021 (4).
Humans have been afflicted by infections and plagues since the beginning of their time here on Earth.
The earliest evidence comes from Egyptian mummies dated from 2400 BCE which exhibit signs of tuberculosis. Similarly, the mummy of Ramses V who died in 1143 BCE contains evidence of smallpox. You should remember reading about the bubonic plague, or “Black Death”, which swept through Europe in the Middle Ages (mid 1300’s and 1600’s) with a fatality rate estimated at 50%. Three separate cholera pandemics occurred throughout the 1800’s. In 1854, a physician named John Snow proved that the cholera was being spread in London by one contaminated water pump which provided drinking water to that part of the city. While he did not yet know about microbes, this was a starting point of identifying tiny disease-causing particles (5).
Just twenty years later the germ theory of disease was initiated when Robert Koch proved that bacteria caused anthrax in cattle and sheep that could also infect humans. Soon after in1885 Louis Pasteur performed the first published inoculation of a human patient against rabies. (5)
The effort to prevent these communicable diseases took place over one hundred years earlier by scientists and physicians who knew nothing about microbes. Edward Jenner performed some of the first vaccinations against smallpox in 1796 by obtaining fluid from cow pox lesions and scratching it into the surface of a patient’s skin to prevent smallpox. He named the material a “vaccine”, whose root word comes from the Latin word for cow “vacca”, and hence the term vaccination. There is some evidence to suggest that people in Africa had used similar methods for similar infectious diseases prior to this (5).
The current Covid-19 pandemic has been compared to that of the “Spanish flu” that occurred from February 1918 to April 1920. This worldwide pandemic was caused by the H1N1 influenza type A virus and is estimated to have infected 500 million people, resulting in up to 100 million deaths. Attempts to make a vaccine at the time were ineffective (5). Up until now, the development of new conventional vaccines took between 5 and 10 years to complete. Many factors are involved and include the type and biology of an organism and how it infects and spreads from person to person (6).
This series of blogs will examine in detail how vaccines are made: both in the conventional method and the new biotechnology methods in which messenger RNA and viral vectors are employed. You will see how these new methods, employed in the making of the current Covid-19 vaccines, result in safe and highly effective protection against the Covid-19 disease. The only way to defeat the current Covid-19 pandemic will be through the use of these vaccines by a vast majority of humans on planet Earth.
Wu, Yi-Chia; Chen, Ching-Sunga; Chan, Yu-Jiun. The outbreak of COVID-19: An overview.
Journal of the Chinese Medical Association: March 2020 – Volume 83 – Issue 3 – p 217-220
PMCID: PMC7098030 PMID: 32226285
- Kenneth C. Davis. More Deadly Than War: The Hidden History of the Spanish Flu and the First World War. 2018. Henry Hold and Company, New York. ISBN 978-1-250-14512-3
Questions and comments may be sent to the author directly.
Clifford M Chapman