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In 1893, a midwife discovered a baby bearing the tell-tale marks of the measles. Unlike the virus, the midwife determined it was not only measles, but was also a boy infected with leprosy. That boy, the miracle that was the first fully vaccinated child in England, was to become known as Charles Cully Bernardone Bernardone.
It was a small case of biological warfare: an intentional infection in a reasonably healthy child so that it could serve as a warning that the infection could spread.
Today the same “merchandise” that you can buy is used by millions and for millions more, there’s debate about the introduction of mandatory vaccinations.
The Ebola outbreak in Africa has focussed attention on the issue at home, as has the H1N1 virus in the Middle East. And a wide range of diseases has coincided with headlines and news coverage around vaccinations.
Fauci discussed the concern at the annual meeting of the American Society for Immunology in Portland, Oregon.
“But let me tell you something, in addition to looking at the politics on the subject, there’s also another question, which is have we really been smart and proactive about how the science has moved on?” said the NIAID Director, Dr Anthony Fauci.
And he acknowledges that while there’s always risks, people should now be able to take their chance.
“So the balance has changed, especially with our young population which is getting better and better at immune recognition.”