For over two centuries, vaccines have been regarded as one of medicine’s miracles and one of public health’s greatest achievements, responsible for saving more lives than perhaps any other medical advance in history. However, the narrative surrounding vaccines has undergone a striking transformation as of late. Thanks to widespread misinformation, some people — parents of young children in particular — have become suspicious of lifesaving immunizations. Even before the advent of the COVID-19 vaccine, immunizations played an indispensable role within the public health framework, and they are poised to remain a central tool in the domain of public health for the foreseeable future.

As misinformation continues to spread, GHLF is unwavering in its dedication to ensuring the widespread dissemination of accurate, evidence-driven insights regarding both vaccines and vaccine research. We are committed to consistently delivering resources that illuminate the benefits and imperative nature of vaccines (including and especially the COVID-19 vaccine). Moreover, we actively advocate for collaborative decision-making between patients and healthcare providers, while producing content tailored to both patients and policymakers. Our overall aim is to engage with a diverse audience through various avenues, addressing matters of vaccine policy and safety comprehensively.

Brief History of Major Vaccines

Vaccines have been in use as a tool for physicians to control the spread of disease since 1796 when the first vaccine was used to combat Cowpox. Today, there are vaccines available to treat 26 different communicable diseases in the United States, leading to millions of vaccines being administered across the world. We wanted to provide a few facts about the creation of some of the most important vaccines in public health history.

  • Smallpox
    • The smallpox vaccine was one of the first to be used worldwide in large enough numbers to begin to control the disease and the eradication effort was one of Global Public Health’s greatest achievements.
    • It is made from a virus called Vaccina, which is related to smallpox but less deadly. The smallpox vaccine DOES NOT contain the smallpox virus and cannot give someone smallpox.
    • Historically, it has been effective at preventing smallpox in 95% of those vaccinated.
    • Routine vaccination for smallpox in the US stopped in 1972 after it was declared eradicated in the US.
    • For more information on the history of the smallpox vaccine, please visit our Matter of Vax Episode Page on Smallpox.
  • Polio
    • The polio vaccine was created in the early 1950’s by US physician Jonas Salk
    • The vaccine is still given today, with infants receiving three doses at 2, 4, and 6 months of age, with booster doses given again at 4 and 6 years of age
    • Polio was eliminated in the Americas by 1994 and the Western Pacific by 2000, with other areas of the world eliminating it or greatly restricting it by 2021.
    • For more information on the history of the Polio vaccine, please visit our Matter of Vax Episode Page on Polio
  • Typhoid
    • The first effective vaccine for typhoid was introduced for military use in 1896 and given to soldiers at war, who were more likely to be killed by typhoid than combat at that time.
    • There are two types of vaccines for typhoid, Inactivated and Live, with each having its own benefits and administration schedule. Patients should work with their healthcare provider to decide which one is best for them.
    • Routine typhoid vaccine is not recommended in the US, but it is highly recommended for people traveling to counties where it is a risk.
    • For more information on the history of the Polio vaccine, please visit our Matter of Vax Episode Page on Typhoid

Maximizing Vaccination Success

On the policy side, GHLF supports laws that restrict the ability for people to claim non-medical exemptions to vaccine mandates. We understand and respect different philosophical and religious beliefs but we believe that in order to maximize vaccination success and immunity for the public as a whole — and especially for those with chronic illness and autoimmune disease — vaccine exemptions should be permitted only for valid medical reasons. We have worked closely with the American Academy of Pediatrics and other concerned groups that are worried that the COVID-19 pandemic forced many children off of their early childhood vaccine schedule, and the uptake has not fully returned to pre-pandemic levels. COVID-19 showed the necessity of “community immunity” when dealing with a viral pathogen, so we are very supportive of attempts to get children back on doctor’s recommended vaccine schedules to give us the best chance at increasing the overall public health of our community.

In addition, our work with coalitions like the American Disease Prevention Coalition (ADPC) has allowed us to advocate for laws that would increase pharmacists’ ability to provide vaccinations, thus increasing the amount of locations where patients can receive them and cutting costs. See below for some of our recent vaccine related letters as well as some links to other pages in our organization about vaccines.

Vaccine Research and Education

At GHLF, we understand that the only way to effect change, whether it is with policymakers and legislative reforms or patients and their individual medical decisions, is to provide clear, consistent educational resources that begin to combat the large quantities of misinformation that are readily available online and on social media platforms. To that end, our data and research teams have published reports and studies regarding vaccination trends, expanding availability, and ensuring equitable access to vaccines that we believe should help inform policymakers that are discussing legislative changes to vaccine policy.

Additionally, GHLF is pumping out educational content geared towards patients, in patient-friendly language that breaks down the issues in non-political and non-partisan ways. Look below to see examples of how GHLF reaches out to policymakers and patients alike, led by our CFPO, Robert Popovian.

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