If you’ve been following History of Vaccines on Instagram, you might have noticed that we’ve been re-posting images of people around the world getting their COVID-19 vaccine. Like the Polio Pioneers back in the 1950s, these people are pioneers in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. History will look back to these weeks to see how the vaccine roll-out went.
If you’re an infectious disease geek — and who isn’t these days? — you may have noticed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have not sent out any alerts over influenza this influenza season. (In the United States, influenza season is from October to May.) In fact, if you look at CDC’s influenza surveillance reports, it seems that influenza has all but disappeared. You can even drill-down on the data further and see that influenza is active at very low levels across all age groups. So where has influenza gone?
Unfortunately, governments the world over have been unable to stave off the waves of lies and misinformation about crucial things like public health and medicine. Some cannot because of the limitations placed on them by their political constitutions. Others cannot because they’re locked in an arms race with the technology that amplifies misinformation to global audiences. And then there are the social media companies that walk the fine line between allowing their users to have freedom of expression and not allowing them to spread dangerous rumors.
While individual states and localities have taken it upon themselves to report the number of cases, deaths and outbreaks of COVID-19, and now the number of vaccine doses given, very few national and international groups are aggregating the data. Perhaps the most famous source of aggregated information on COVID-19 cases is Johns Hopkins University and their dashboard. Another group that has been keeping good numbers by aggregating data from many different sources are the folks over at Our World in Data.
No one woke up on a morning in December and decided that an mRNA vaccine was the way to go without any prior knowledge of the science and technology of mRNA vaccines. That knowledge goes back decades, and there have been many people working on this technology with many companies and governments spending large amounts of money on it. There have been clinical trials on mRNA vaccines not just for the coronavirus but for cancer and other ailments. Little by little, advances were made that brought us to the current vaccine.