The history of infectious diseases in relation to COVID-19


Madelynn Beck, Reporter

Throughout the course of history, there have been nineteen major infectious disease outbreaks, not including COVID-19. As the world’s population began to grow and traveling abroad was made possible, it was inevitable that pandemics, as well as epidemics, would occur. It wasn’t until 1798 that the first vaccines were developed and therefore diseases prior had been able to run rampant across the globe with nothing to slow them down. For most infectious diseases there is no cure, only treatments. On average, it takes scientists today two years or more to develop working vaccines for infectious diseases which then begs the question, when will there be a COVID-19 vaccination released to the public?

   As the presidential race continues, politics have made their way into the COVID-19 vaccine trials. Pressure from the White House and Republican party have pushed for vaccine approval to help in their campaign, neglecting the fact that real, working, and safe vaccines take much more time to develop than just a few months. 

    Damon Mollenkopf, a history teacher at Westerville North High School, believes that politics should not influence the COVID-19 vaccination trials. 

   “…Science should influence every decision made in concern to COVID-19. Politics and science are not the same… science is hard factually based evidence while politics is all based on one’s opinion,” Mollenkopf said. 

   As of right now there have been six pandemics in the twenty-first century alone. Those being severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) from a coronavirus strand (2002-2003), the swine flu of H1N1 (2009-2010), the ebolavirus (2014-2016), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)  from a coronavirus strand (2015-present), and most recently COVID-19 from a coronavirus strand (2020-present). None of which have a cure but rather a vaccine or dissipated to very few cases in recent years, not including COVID-19. 

   Joe Clegg, a health teacher at Westerville North High School, has already lived through three different pandemics in his lifetime and believes it is very likely that we will see another sometime in the future. 

      “Considering that I’ve been through H1N1, SARS, and COVID-19 all in my lifetime and I’m only thirty one years old the likelihood of another pandemic happening in our lifetimes is very high,” Clegg said . 

   Recently, Pfizer and Biontech, an American multinational pharmaceutical corporation,  announced that a possible COVID-19 vaccine candidate achieved success in the first interim analysis from a phase three study. The vaccine candidate was found to be more than ninety percent effective in the prevention of COVID-19 in participants without the evidence of a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection. 

    Gabe Hall, a history teacher at Westerville North High School, has high hopes for a possible vaccine approval in the near future given the timeline of previous vaccination approvals and the COVID-19 trials being conducted now. 

     “The Pfizer vaccine trials are definitely making a lot of headway and the CEO of Pfizer said it’s hopefully going to be fall of 2021, if everything goes well, that they’ll be able to roll the vaccine out to the general public,” Hall said. 

    In many ancient societies, people believed that diseases were inflicted by the wrath of the gods as punishment because their understanding of science was so limited. Science has since come a long way from the beginning of those historic pandemics and thus the future of the vaccination trails is bright. 

(Click on “History of Infectious Diseases” chart to see it enlarged)