As a public health student, I vehemently oppose the false propaganda circling on the web, especially about vaccines. For example, the combined measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine does not cause autism in children. Pox parties, what some anti-vaccine parents organize to purposely infect their children with the chickenpox, can lead to complications like bacterial skin infections, toxic shock syndrome or even pneumonia. And contrary to what you might have heard on Fox News about people in the caravan bringing smallpox, the disease was eliminated worldwide in 1980.
Vaccines have been saving children’s lives for centuries now. But nobody has helped more children than Dr. Maurice Hilleman. Known as the father of modern vaccines, Hilleman’s tenacity and commitment to his craft paved the way for a safer world against infectious diseases. His work increased the life expectancy of thousands of children. Dr. Maurice Hilleman’s legacy in vaccinology is a reminder for everyone that a person can leave this earth in better shape for future generations.
Hilleman’s passion for science became his life’s mission to serve humanity. Out of all his accomplishments, one of the most meaningful breakthroughs came with the help from his eldest daughter, Jeryl Lynn. He swabbed a sample of the mumps virus that had infected Jeryl Lynn’s throat and soothed her aches with some broth. Four years later he created a life-changing vaccine.
Millions of cloned “Jeryl Lynn” mumps vaccines now protect children all over the world. We sacrifice momentary discomfort of a needle for a lifetime of immunity. Science is the tool through which one can also perform acts of mercy. Dr. Hilleman created the MMR vaccine to reduce the number of needles needed to vaccinate, he did this for the betterment of the society. But the story of Hilleman’s passion for his work does not seem to trend on blogs allegedly dedicated to informing about how vaccines work.
As we click through the top ten Google results on vaccines, we never find an article about the scientist who volunteered himself to be injected with the first trial of the hepatitis B vaccine. He wanted to prove the vaccine was safe. Your friends on Facebook will never share a post about the scientist responsible for a vaccine that protects chickens against a cancer-causing virus.
Because of this scientist, every American family can choose whether to have chicken or red meat for dinner. These developments and the more than half of the vaccines children get inoculated with today is thanks to Dr. Hilleman. He embodied the level of integrity and commitment to saving lives that we all expect from our scientists.
Unfortunately, infectious diseases like the measles have reemerged. People who are in favor of vaccines fear that only an epidemic and the deaths of hundreds of children will change the minds of people who are against them. The guilt will be too great when they realize they contributed to the destruction of an infectious-disease-free-world that Dr. Maurice Hillemann worked his whole life to make a reality.
Opinions expressed in The Nevada Sagebrush are solely those of the author and do not necessarily express the views of The Sagebrush or of its staff. Sara Gallego studies public health and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.