Kia ora whanau.
This morning, Wednesday 19th of May 2021 I was vaccinated with the Pfizer Covid19 vaccine.
It is not my first nor I’m assuming it will be my last. I’ve had vaccines for Polio, Diphtheria, tetanus, typhus and ongoing influenza shots.
Us Kiwis have a history of resisting vaccination until there is an outbreak and then it’s “all hands to the pump”.
Vaccination is an action that has brought relief and life to millions over many generations around the globe and yet we still have those that say it is “too dangerous” and they will not be vaccinated nor allow their whanau to be protected from horrific diseases.
A wee bit of history. The first vaccinations happened in China around 200BCE and was probably the same method recorded by the Emperor K’ang Hsi who survived smallpox as a child and had his children inoculated. The method they used was scratching matter from a smallpox sore into the skin or grinding up the scabs and blowing it into the nostrils.
Smallpox, whooping cough, typhoid and diphtheria were killers and would appear all over the world however the worst of the epidemics were carried by the “new” arrivals into the colonies and the new World. A smallpox epidemic hit Massachusetts in what was the North American Colonies, killing many Native Americans and 20 from the Mayflower including their physician. The Governor, John Winthrop wrote “, the natives, they are neere all dead of the small Poxe, so the Lord hathe cleared our title to what we possess” he saw it as an act of God clearing the land of the natives for them.
In December of 1694 Queen Mary II of England died from Smallpox. “Smallpox was always present. Filling the church-yards with corpses, tormenting with constant fears all of whom it had not yet stricken, leaving on those whose lives were spared the hideous traces of its power, turning the babe into changeling at which the mother shuddered, and making the eyes and cheeks of the betrothed maiden objects of horror to the lover”. All descriptions of the hideous scars left by the pox.
In 1718, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who had been disfigured by smallpox as a child had her son, while in Turkey variolated, an early process of vaccination. She took the process back to England and the practice spread. Unfortunately, 2 to 3% of those treated died however that was a huge success compared to the 20-30% that died from contracting smallpox. Once again there were distractors however the figures spoke for themselves.
Eventually Cowpox became the great protector against smallpox infection. The famous Doctor Edward Jenner is credited with its discovery when on May 14th 1796 he inoculated an eight-year-old boy with the matter from a cowpox sore. The boy suffered a local reaction and was unwell for a few days but went on to a full recovery. In July of the same year Jenner infected the boy with matter from a fresh human smallpox sore. The boy remained healthy and as they say the rest is history.
There is a small footnote: In 1774, two years before Jenner’s success and English farmer, Benjamin Jesty inoculated his family with the cowpox. Jesty had contracted cowpox as a child and when there was a serious outbreak of smallpox in his Dorset Village he decided to protect his family. They all survived. In 1816 upon his death his wife had “the first person who introduced the cow-pox inoculation” engraved on his tombstone.
As time passed more and more work brought more and more successes and today we are well protected by vaccinations from many serious and fatal diseases.
The process of vaccination now begins in the laboratory where a pathogen is produced that when introduced to our body will trigger our immune system to create the anti-bodies required to fight off and defeat the disease.
Now to Aotearoa, our home.
The first vaccine ever offered in New Zealand was in 1863 against smallpox and although it was compulsory for children for the next 40 years, fewer than one per cent were vaccinated against the deadly disease. Diphtheria, tuberculosis, tetanus and polio followed.
Immunisation rates were slow, in the mid 1920’s only 15% 0f school children were vaccinated. There was a slow increase to around 33% by the late 20’s but we still dragged the chain.
In the 1950’s the 70% rate for diphtheria wasn’t reached. Typically, it is not until we are faced with disaster that we make a change.
We were hit with severe polio epidemics in the 1940’s and 50’s and when the vaccination became available we rushed our children down to the doctor.
97%, well above the herd immunity requirement, received the first dose and by 1962 93% had the second dose of the vaccine.
True to form, the polio rates dropped and so did the immunisation figures.
A decline in all infectious diseases made us complacent and many parents became less concerned with immunisation for their children. By the 1980’s immunisation had fallen below 80% and we put ourselves at risk as that is below the expectation for herd immunity.
Today our immunisation rates are lower than other developed countries with the percentage rate of our two-year old children below the target rate of 95% we put them at risk.
So to the Anti-Vac brigade, you were made safe by the use of vaccinations in our past, you are a beneficiary of the forward planning of our tupuna, please don’t put our children or any of our whanau at risk.
Support the Covid19 vaccination programme and get your shot. More importantly, support your whanau to join you so we can all be protected and not undo the sacrifices we have made since March of last year.
Nga mihi Dann
Listen to Danny Watson & Leah Panapa every weekday from 12pm on Magic Talk.