Posted on February 4, 2015James Phipps probably doesn’t ring much of bell for any of you.
Neither does Edward Jenner.
Phipps was the poor English boy who became the subject of an experiment that helped to change the world.
Small pox was probably the biggest murderer in the history of mankind (other than old age).
In its heyday, it wiped out up to half of the nation’s population.
Phipps was one of the first subjects to successfully test a vaccine and survive to tell the tale.
Jenner was the man who first figured out that milkmaids, who were generally immune from small pox, did something in the process of milking cows that gave them protection.
What they did was get pus from the cows into their system. Jenner injected that pus into Phipps’s body (it’s unclear if Phipps knew what he was getting in to) and then exposed him to the small box virus at various moments.
When it became clear that Phipps would survive, Jenner knew he had a cure on his hands.
Inoculation has deeper roots in world history, but it was Jenner who usually gets the credit for being the inventor the vaccine.
The process of vaccination is counter-intuitive. Why would I want to inject anything into my body (other than caffeine) that is bad for me and could get be sick?
And, from time to time, it can be controversial.
Some people don’t want to be vaccinated. They just don’t want to take the risk.
But the risk from not taking a vaccination has turned out to be much higher.
And sometimes, in this world, you have to do what you don’t want to do, to protect not only yourselves, but also the community you live in.
Concern about vaccinations comes from the left and the right. President Obama and Hillary Clinton have expressed concerns in the past, as has Chris Christie and Rand Paul.
Their concerns are mostly expressed in the context of the causes of autism.
The medical community has declared those concerns to be non-sense, but I think they take that position because of the bigger risks that come from people not immunizing.
They measure the costs of a few kids getting autism against millions of people possibly dying from a major epidemic like small pox and they decide to crush any dissent in its cradle.
I understand that balancing act, but I am not exactly comfortable with people who say that immunizations have nothing to do with autism, since we have no real idea what causes autism.
I think we need to find that cause before we rule anything out.
That being said, I think children should get their shots. If we have learned anything over the last 250 years, we have learned that when we take steps to protect ourselves against disease, we have far fewer unnecessary deaths.
With measles breaking out across the country, political leaders have to state clearly and without reservation, that parents must immunize their children.
This is not a discretionary program.
The risks are too high to your kids and mine if parents are given the option to keep their kids shot-free.