Vaccines, part I

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Sandra Porter
A long time ago, I saw a movie called "The Other Side of the Mountain." The movie told the story of Jill Kinmont, a ski racer who contracted polio and lost the use of her legs. I was sad for days for afterward, but also relieved to know that Jill Kinmont's fate wasn't going to be mine. I wasn't going to wake up in an iron lung after a ski race, and neither were my friends, because most of the children in my generation had been vaccinated against the Polio virus.
This image shows a polio survivor learning to walk. The image comes from the CDC Public Health Image Library
We were lucky. Before the polio vaccine was introduced in 1955, there were over 20,000 cases of polio each year (Public Health Image Library, image 2612). By the time I was born, that number had dropped to 3000. For our generation, Vaccine Day marked the beginning of every school year. We all lined up and got our vaccines, including our sugar cubes soaked with a weakened form of the polio virus. Today, we have access to an amazing collection of vaccines, many of which have been developed through methods that were unimaginable years ago. In this next series of posts, I plan to write about both the older vaccine technologies - dried stuff from sores, and the newer methods - recombinant proteins and DNA- and describe what the vaccines are and how they induce immunity.

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