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?
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.
With news today that President Trump has tested positive for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, I’ve received a number of messages and phone calls asking for a historical perspective on what is going on. President Trump is not the first Chief Executive who has had to deal with a disease. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson contracted the disease in March and was hospitalized in intensive care because his symptoms were serious. President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil also contracted COVID-19, but his condition was not reported as serious at any time, and — like Mr. Johnson — continued in power throughout the course of his illness.