Skip to content
Leeds Older People’s Forum
← Back to all posts
December 17, 2020

Covid vaccines: walking in history’s footsteps

Once upon a time, milkmaids were famed for their fair complexions. Other girls might be disfigured by smallpox scars, but milkmaids became immune after catching cowpox, a milder disease. This was recognised by the famous Edward Jenner about 200 years ago. He introduced vaccination, which saved millions and millions of people from smallpox. That viral disease once killed 10 to 20% of the entire population, putting Covid-19 well in the shade.

Even in the 18th and 19th centuries, there were ‘anti-vaxxers’, who ridiculed Jenner with jibes and cockeyed ideas that are being repeated almost word-for-word today!

In fact, vaccination is one of the greatest gifts from science to humanity. People now enjoy healthy, disease-free lives and can travel safely anywhere in the world, not forgetting that animal vaccination has given us better and cheaper food too.

Everyone today has benefitted from vaccination, but older people like me will remember their parents’ and grandparents’ pre-war generations. It was quite common then for young people to die from diseases we can now disregard. I know this from my own family’s sorrows in the 1920s and 1930s.

Having worked in pharmaceutical manufacturing myself, I know that great attention and expense is devoted to making sure that all medicines are as safe and effective as they possibly can be.

So let’s embrace the new Covid-19 vaccines and be led by Jenner’s example. We can become part of vaccine history by helping to restore good health to the country and protecting ourselves at the same time.

David Smith
Cross Gates & District Good Neighbours Scheme