Kirschner: Vaccine is a victory for science, humanity

The first doses of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine arrive in Maricopa County, Dec. 14.
The first doses of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine arrive in Maricopa County, Dec. 14.
[Maricopa County photo]

With the approval of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the major tasks are now distribution and vaccination. Developing the vaccines has been a technological marvel, but until we get shots in the arms of 80% of the population, the COVID-19 pandemic will not be aborted.

History can give us a few examples to help with the roll out and a few personal notes from my vaccination history.

In March 1947, New York City had an outbreak of Smallpox. A Smallpox vaccine had been developed in the 18th century and much of the population, at the time of this outbreak, had been inoculated but the city health commissioner decided on a mass inoculation effort.

President Harry Truman and the mayor of New York City were inoculated, and in two weeks, 5 million New Yorkers rolled up their sleeves for the shot. I was 11 years old, living in New York, and I remember getting my inoculation.

I did not get Smallpox, but still have the inoculation scar on my arm.

READ: State moves into Phase 1B COVID-19 vaccination stage

In 1980, the World Health Organization reported that Smallpox had been eradicated from the world — a victory for science against a disease that had ravaged the human population for centuries.

The disease my parents were concerned about was Polio (aka Infantile Paralysis).

In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced the development of a Polio vaccine that was safe and effective. A mass immunization was begun both in the United States and around the world.

I received my Polio vaccine and did not get the disease.

Within a few years, a scourge that crippled millions, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was eliminated from our planet. It was another success for science and vaccination. Leadership by the president matters.

I served in the U.S. Air Force from 1963 to 1985, and received more immunizations than any civilian could imagine. During those 22 years, I spent time in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia but missed out on Antarctica (no virus there).

I never had a significant infection. I believe in vaccinations.

The Air Force brought me to Arizona as commander USAF Hospital Luke.

After retirement, I have had a multitude of health care-related positions and activities. They include chief medical officer, Mercy Care Plan; AHCCCS director; Board of Directors of Sun Health, PMH Health Resources, AzHHA, Arizona Town Hall and Wickenburg Community Hospital.

I’ve been president of AARP Arizona, a member of the State Medicaid Advisory Committee, a member of the National Advisory Council on Services for the Elderly and Disabled, and a member of the Harvard University School of Public Health Leadership Council. I am a longtime member of the Arizona Medical Association, Arizona Perinatal Trust, Arizona Public Health Association and Maricopa Medical Society.

READ: Independent Newsmedia continues collaborative commenting platform at yourvalley.net

In all those activities, preventive medicine and public health have been a key component of my professional life. Preventive medicine starts with immunizations, and science has given us the tools to prevent 25 different diseases.

This brings us to 2020-21.

COVID-19 has ravaged the earth like no other infection since the great influenza of 1918-19. The end is in sight if we, as the human race, can muster the will and fortitude to practice simple public health measures and bare our arms for THE SHOT.

In this day and age of instant communication, there is a plethora of misinformation and conspiracy theories flooding the Internet.

Ignore the noise and take THE SHOT for you, your family and humanity.

Editor’s note: Dr. Leonard Kirschner MPH is a longtime medical professional. He lives in Litchfield Park.