Polio, smallpox eradicated by vaccine program decades before COVID-19

Updated: Dec. 17, 2020 at 11:52 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Most people today would think of the COVID-19 pandemic as the worst major disease outbreak ever, unless you have lived long enough to remember that this is not the first or the worst.

Polio terrified American families in the 1950s, leaving hundreds of thousands of children paralyzed. Likewise, smallpox was highly contagious and often disfiguring.

Dr. Steven Berk is not only the Dean of the Texas Tech School of Medicine but he is also an Infectious Disease Specialist.

He says, “Those who remember polio know polio was wiped out by a vaccine, not by any treatment. Smallpox worldwide killed millions of people and it, too, became eradicated by the technology of vaccines.”

By 1980, smallpox had become just a word in the history books.

Now, 40 years later, we face COVID-19, a virus that has taken more than 1.6 million lives in more than 200 countries.

Dr. Berk says, “So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the solution will be an effective vaccination program.”

Maybe we are to blame in the media for calling it a “race” to get a vaccine. Maybe that is why people don’t trust our new COVID vaccine options - because it has happened too fast.

Dr. Berk says that’s not the case.

He explains, “The technology that went into this vaccine has been going on for decades. So, while it may seem like something that happened suddenly, there has been a tremendous amount of time, effort and scientific study that has brought us to where we are today.”

The challenge now is getting enough people to take this vaccine so that we can build what’s called Herd Immunity.

Dr. Berk says, “And what that would mean is if 70% of our population had antibodies, the virus couldn’t find enough people to continue having it go on and on.”

But it takes a village...

Will you be a part of this effort to bring an end to the pandemic?

If you are among the 38,000 people in Lubbock County who have already had the virus, you may wonder if you need a vaccine or not.

The answer is yes, but Dr. Berk says it is recommended that you wait 90 days after your recovery because there are many others who need it before you.

And yes, Dr. Berk says he will be first in line when his turn comes.

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