National Geographic : 2017 Nov
Why vaccines matter 127 BELGIUM These steel vats in a new GSK building near Brussels began producing key ingredients for making polio vaccine in 2017—six years after construction began. To maintain sterility, workers enter and exit through air locks. pulled from a drawer a creased yellow card: San- jida’s national health record. Here was her birth date, in September 2005. And here, the first markings dated six weeks later, were the notations for Sanjida’s vaccina- tions. Like her older brother, Sanjida received every inoculation then in Bangladesh’s nation- al immunization plan, on schedule and for free: whooping cough, measles, diphtheria, tubercu- losis, tetanus, hepatitis B, polio. No smallpox; worldwide vaccination had already erased that disfiguring contagion from the planet by 1980, two centuries after the English physician Ed- ward Jenner published his famous treatise on deliberately infecting children with cowpox, a mild virus that turned out to stimulate immuni- ty against the far more serious smallpox. An extraordinary global health history had been abbreviated, in a way, on Sanjida’s little yellow card. No one can tally accurately the total number of lives saved by widespread vac- cination, but it remains one of the greatest achievements of modern medicine. Measles, for example, was killing more than two million children a year worldwide in the 1980s; by 2015, according to the World Health Organization, vac- cination had dropped the death toll to 134,200. Mass vaccination has ended polio in all but three countries; Bangladesh and its giant neighbor In- dia were pronounced polio free in March 2014.