We humans have been roaming the Earth for about 200,000 years. Some ancient civilizations, such as the Incas, the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians and the empires of China, made great strides in a multitude of human endeavors, even having performed brain surgery. It is not known whether any of them knew about the existence of microscopic life or the germs that surround and inhabit our bodies, are found everywhere, in all things, and throughout our planet.
Though great human settlements were established as far back as 10,000 years ago, our ancient forebearers were far from successful at sanitary, healthful living environments. With their lack of sanitation came infections, those infections inevitably leading to diseases. Thus began the long, shared history between human civilizations and illnesses. Our ancestors were exposed to fewer infections and diseases than we are; yet, over centuries, they were eventually plagued by influenza, typhoid, malaria, measles, tuberculosis, yellow fever, small pox, chicken pox and a whole host of others.
Help was hundreds, even thousands of years, in coming. Immunizations, inoculations and vaccinations arrived on the human scene to deal with these and other disease-ravaging illnesses barely 200 years ago.
One such breakthrough for human health in the United Kingdom took place by one keen-eyed British fellow, Edward Jenner. In 1796, Jenner observed that some dairymaids seemed protected from smallpox if they had already been infected by a much less-dangerous virus related to small pox. Jenner thereafter conducted an experiment: scratching the arm of an 8-year-old boy from a cowpox sore on one of the dairymaids, he succeeded when the boy was immunized against the deadly smallpox while Jenner’s experiment began the immunization age. Another breakthrough about 100 years later, Dr. Louis Pasteur demonstrated that disease could be prevented by infecting humans with weakened germs. In 1885 he began preventing rabies.
During the last century great advances were made in immunizations. Instances include those of the 1950s when medical doctors Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin made what are possibly the best known of advances in medical science through prevention of polio: up to 20,000 cases of polio were reported every year in the U.S. before the Salk vaccine was available. By 2000 not one case was reported. There were countless others developed during the 1900s, one of which has allowed millions of Americans to avoid influenza by the annual injection of the latest vaccine adaptation every year. Measles formerly killed a half million children every year along while huge numbers of children stricken by other diseases now virtually eliminated by inoculations.
History provides justifiable confidence in the development of a vaccine for the Coronavirus or COVID-19. It will require some time to develop a safe and effective immunization against it, forthcoming as soon as it can be made and tested to determine its safety and effectiveness. Based on what science already knows about COVID-19, it is likely to mutate. Speculation now is that a refresher shot, much like the annual renewal to lessen or avoid influenza, will be an annual event for most everyone who values his health and life.