Mankind suffered the ravages of the red plague -- smallpox -- for 12,000 years. The earliest case was found in the mummified body of Pharaoh Ramses V of Egypt. In the 18th century, the toll from the red plague averaged 400,000 lives annually in Europe.
The last known case was discovered on Oct. 26, 1977. The world can thank Dr. Edward Jenner of Gloucestershire and a whole pack of busybodies in the 19th century for its eradication. In 1796, Dr. Jenner discovered that cowpox made a good vaccination against smallpox.
Soon a campaign to vaccinate people began. In less than two centuries, scientists conquered this deadly disease.
Over the years, scientists have succeeded in creating vaccinations against other dangerous diseases, such as measles, pertussis and polio.
Parents and other guardians have been dogged in getting their children immunized, particularly in West Virginia, which leads the nation in vaccinated schoolchildren.
West Virginia does not mess around. No vaccination, no school. The state does not grant a religious exemption to immunizations, nor should it. If adults want to risk their lives, fine, but they cannot risk the lives of children.
But the state lags in infant immunizations. The state Bureau of Public Health has used this week to publicize the need for infant immunizations.
“The vast majority of children get vaccinated by the time they enter school, which means they’re protected at that point. But waiting until school isn’t the best means for vaccination,” Dr. Loretta Haddy told the Daily Mail’s Whitney Burdette.
State officials also battle junk science. In 1998, a British physician falsified data to link autistic spectrum disorders to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
Unfortunately, the Lancet, a medical journal, published his paper. Although the Lancet has since retracted the paper and authorities stripped the physcian of his medical license, this deadly rumor survives, thanks in no small part to celebrity Jenny McCarthy, who wants parents to pick and choose vaccinations as if they are ordering lunch.
The need for infant immunizations is real. Parents should put their children first and their superstitions last.