Our previous article showed how scientists and doctors developed a vaccine to prevent diphtheria, which was the leading cause of childhood death around the world. We also found that most adults did not die of the disease. Nevertheless, the adults back then had enough common sense and compassion to know that if they were vaccinated it would help stop the unnecessary death of their own children as well as everyone else’s children. This was an example of the simple Christian value of loving one’s neighbor as yourself. And it worked. Diphtheria is very rare in the U.S.
Now let us look at two other bacterial diseases that vaccines have basically stopped or at least brought under control: tetanus and whooping cough.
Tetanus is different from other bacterial diseases because it does not spread by human contact. It is caused by bacterial spores that enter the body through a cut or break in the skin.
The literature says that tetanus spores are located everywhere all around the world. This is a bit misleading. If the spores were literally everywhere, then any cut to our skin could lead to a case of tetanus. A better statement would be that the tetanus spores can be anywhere but are not actually everywhere. Therefore, to be safe, it is always best to wash, clean, and disinfect any cut that we receive.
Tetanus spores are most commonly found in soil, saliva, dust, and poop. Which, come to think of it, is pretty much everywhere.
Tetanus is also called lock-jaw. Your jaw tightens, your back arches, your legs become rigid, your arms draw up to the body, and your fists clench. Then you get repeated and highly painful seizure-like spasms that last for several minutes. Painfully long minutes. Then you do it again. And again. Plus, it’s hard to breathe.
If you get a case of tetanus, there are medicines and antibiotics that help fight the symptoms but there is no cure. If you haven’t been vaccinated, you just have to experience the pain until your body fights off the bacteria. Tetanus can kill you but usually doesn’t. On the other hand, you and your family can use your common sense and avoid the whole painful experience by getting the vaccine.
There is a common misconception that you get tetanus by stepping on a rusty nail. This is true only if the nail has tetanus spores already on it. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. However, relating tetanus with rusty nails is a good reminder to get a tetanus booster every ten years because the vaccine becomes less effective over time.
Therefore, if you are vaccinated for tetanus, you can go ahead and step on all the rusty nails you want to.
If you recall from the first article on Other Bad Bugs We Have Known, research by a Japanese scientist studying tetanus was important in discovering how to develop a vaccine for diphtheria.
Another bacterial disease that a vaccine has brought under control is Pertussis, or as it is usually called, whooping cough. Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease. You get uncontrollable fits of brutal coughing which makes it hard to breathe. You have to take deep breaths that result in a “whooping” sound. The coughing is sometimes so violent that you may break a rib or two.
Anyone can get the disease and although it’s 100 days of misery, most people don’t die. But it can kill children, especially babies, and often did so before the vaccine was available.
A whooping cough vaccine is the most effective way to prevent this disease. However, no vaccine is 100% effective. If an outbreak occurs in a family, school, or community, there is a chance that a fully vaccinated person, of any age, can possibly catch the disease. Fortunately, if you received the vaccine and still get sick, the infection is usually not as bad.
The same is true for our Covid vaccine. A small percentage of those vaccinated for Covid get sick enough to go to the hospital. A very few even die. However, almost all of the 1,000 to 1,500 people who are still dying every day from Covid have not been vaccinated. It’s not until they are laying on their death bed that their common sense kicks in and they want the vaccine. By then, it’s too late.
Although tetanus and whooping cough do not usually kill adults, people back in the 1940s (when the vaccines first came out) were glad to take the vaccine. Not only did it keep them from getting the diseases, it protected the entire community, especially the children. They understood that when it comes to public health, we’re all in this together. They were not selfish individualists. They had compassion for their fellow citizens.
In today’s Covid pandemic, too many people have lost that compassion. These folks believe that since Covid does not kill most people, then the odds are that it won’t kill them. They listen to radio and television personalities who have turned a public health crisis into a political battle. They believe it is their right to not get vaccinated. They believe it is their right to ignore the leading doctors and scientists who have developed a vaccine that can stop this disease. They believe they have the right to go wherever they want even though they could be spreading the disease to other people, some of whom will die.
They have willingly surrendered their common sense. They choose to not respect the rights of those who got the vaccine and are trying to end this terrible pandemic. Even the death of 750,000 Americans does not change their minds.
We Americans put a high value on our individual rights and this has served us well. However, with rights come responsibilities. We don’t have the right to kill each other. We do have the responsibility to protect each other.
Use your common sense. Get vaccinated.