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Vaccine Diplomacy in History: Smallpox, Polio, Covid-19

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As the world enters its second year of pandemic, it is difficult to shake the feeling that each country is almost its own.From the sights of vaccine-storing countries to the seemingly endless travel restrictions, the disease seems to be fueled. nationalism, Weakened international cooperation and increased geopolitical tensions.

But even at this stage of the pandemic, history gives a reason for hope. “Long recordVaccine diplomacyConfirms that illness does not always divide countries. In fact, the very act of fighting pathogens can promote friendship and cooperation between pathogens.

The story of vaccine diplomacy definitely begins with “spotted monster” smallpox. Over the centuries, the virus has plagued humankind, killing 20% ​​to 60% of its victims and severely injuring or blinding survivors.

Join Edward Jenner, an 18th century British doctor.Jenner Observed Milkmaids rarely caught smallpox. Some milkmaids attributed this protection to the fact that they are catching cowpox, a disease that is mostly already associated but almost harmless. Jenner speculated that giving someone cowpox would give them immunity to smallpox.

He was right.Jenner called this method vaccination: “Vacca” is the Latin word for cow. Although many attacked Jenner, his advocacy of vaccination gained prominent support throughout Britain and ultimately in other parts of the world in the first decades of the 19th century.

Historian Michael Bennett recently Book This is the details of this remarkable campaign that took place during the fierce war between Britain and France, and other conflicts around the world. But Jenner wasn’t stopped. During the Napoleonic Wars, he famously proclaimed to French responders that “science is never in a state of war.”

This may sound hopelessly naive, but Jenner and an expanding network of allies around the world are shipping vaccines between war-torn countries, prioritizing public health over national conflict. started. Jenner soon realized that he had acted as an informal diplomat between Britain and France and was trusted by both countries.

Vaccination has changed diplomatic relations around the world. Prior to Jenner, countries could not do much to fight each other’s illness. Traditional medicines have been of little use and money around the world has been unable to stop smallpox. However, vaccines are possible and countries soon began to use them as a way to buy goodwill.

This was altruism left to the altruism of the country.In fact, Jenner and other British authorities have vaccinated Manage The growing empire of the country. Jenner said,“We will soon see a society formed throughout the empire to eradicate smallpox,” which is comparable to the medical infrastructure he was building at home.

Other countries also paid attention.As early as 1801, the United States I started We provide smallpox vaccination to senior visiting officials from Indian tribes. President Thomas Jefferson sent the vaccine west with the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition, but apparently rotted before using it.

France has advanced vaccine diplomacy far more than most other regions. After microbiologist Louis Pasteur developed a vaccine to prevent rabies, it was a horrific disease that killed everyone with rabies, but the French government researched throughout the colony to administer large doses of the vaccine. Started to build.

While it is easy to counteract these types of efforts as selfish imperial intervention, the scientists who promoted these vaccination programs truly believed that vaccines could transcend national differences. Pasteur, for example, famously declared that “science does not know the country.”

This was more ideal than reality, but Pasteur got hooked on something. During the height of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were on the verge of nuclear war several times. They have also succeeded in cooperating with the polio vaccine, a disease that causes many children to become paralyzed and die.

In the 1950s, the United States began taking the polio vaccine developed by Jonas Salk. These depended on the dead version of the virus to elicit an immune response. Although healthy, this method had serious drawbacks. Multiple vaccinations and booster immunization. To make matters worse, many parents refused to vaccinate their children after an incomplete batch of vaccines infected polio patients.

Virologist Albert Sabin opposed Soak’s approach, advocating the use of a living but attenuated version of the virus. Unfortunately, many were already vaccinated with Sark’s serum, and few parents had a stomach for further experimentation, so there was no intention or way to test it in American children. ..

But there was another country that was willing to accept the opportunity. It is the Soviet Union. In 1956, a team of Soviet virologist couples visited Sabin to create something that would lead to lasting collaboration. When the FBI and KGB agents hovered over the two teams, the Americans prepared an attenuated strain of polio for injection into Soviet children.

Although the two countries fought proxy wars around the world, they nevertheless cooperated in one of the largest vaccine trials in human history. The Soviet Union and the eastern nations eventually vaccinated more than 100 million people, primarily children. The campaign, dubbed “Blitz Craig Against Polio” by a British medical journal, demonstrated that the Sabin vaccine is safe, effective, and can be manufactured in large quantities and quickly.

The United States quickly pivoted and moved to the Sabin method of vaccination. Since then, both countries have begun distributing polio vaccines worldwide. Much of this is classic vaccine diplomacy, and countries have purchased good intentions by offering the miracle of modern medicine. But whatever that intention, the children of the world have become beneficiaries.

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