With the 2016-2017 flu season approaching, millions of Americans are preparing to get a flu shot. Along with shorter days, cooler weather and Halloween, the flu shot has become an autumn tradition for countless individuals and families – and not just across America, but all over the globe.
How did the flu shot come about? What happened to people before it became widely available? When was the first flu vaccine developed? While some other Urgent Care Extra blog posts have focused on the effectiveness of the flu vaccination, flu prevention tips or the science behind different strains of the influenza virus, this one will take the historical perspective.
The history of the influenza vaccine is both interesting and awe-inspiring. Let’s take a look at some key dates, essential medical professionals and other people and events that made the common flu shot possible.
Before the Flu Shot
How deadly was the flu virus before the first vaccines were available? Consider the 1918 flu pandemic, regarded as one of the deadliest viruses in history. This pandemic is strikingly apt, as it coincided with the conclusion of – to that point – the bloodiest war in human history. World War I was responsible for nearly 20 million civilian deaths, but the 1918 flu season killed many more.
To this day, there are still pockets of pre-flu-shot populations, and the picture isn’t pretty. For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that during the 2013 flu season, roughly 90% of children who died from the flu never received their first flu shot.
“Necessity is the mother of invention,” as the saying goes. And for influenza vaccine history, the necessity of finding a flu shot was paramount in preventing millions more needless deaths. The race was on to find a vaccine.
The History of the Flu Shot
Some historical narratives have a “pivot point,” where a particular occurrence, person, battle, you name it changed the course of events forever. For the flu vaccine, the pivot point arrived in terms of people: Jonas Salk and his mentor and friend, Thomas Francis, Jr. While Dr. Salk would achieve fame with his polio vaccine in 1953, the deadly flu epidemics throughout the early 20th century – the 1918 flu pandemic mentioned earlier killed around 30 million people – commanded attention from top medical authorities around the globe.
The first flu shot was administered in 1945, nearly a decade after research started. Early vaccines caused excessive fatigue and aches, mostly due to impurities in the early flu shot that have since been eliminated. Since Dr. Salk and Dr. Francis’ first flu shot, many improvements have made the flu shot an essential disease prevention method. It is currently on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Essential Medicines List.
Medical advancements, specialized treatments and medicine never remain static, which is why there is so much history involved with the flu shot. From the first flu vaccine to the present day, the evolution of the flu virus has tried to remain one step ahead of the latest season’s influenza vaccine. This cat-and-mouse history has revealed many significant milestones along the way, including the first multiple flu vaccine deployment in 1978. Flu vaccine history continues to evolve this very moment; the vaccines developed for this year’s flu season do not – and should not – match the vaccinations from 1986, 1996 or 2006. Thus, Jonas Salk’s legacy endures as strong as ever.
How the Flu Shot Impacted Care Protocol and Procedures
Prior to the onset of the influenza vaccine, caring for someone with the flu could be a perilous situation. Not only was the infected person at risk, but the people who cared for them were also susceptible to the virus. Thankfully, modern medicine and proven care methods have shown nurses, PAs, doctors and even family members the proper way to care for someone who has contracted the influenza virus. Proper care protocols include:
- Enhanced personal quarantine protocol
- Clean up messes quickly
- Help the infected person get as much rest as possible
- Keep the patient properly hydrated
- Cover your mouth
- Keep in contact with doctors and other medical professionals
The type of care hasn’t changed much since Jonas Salk’s days, but how people care for those infected with the flu is much more sanitary today than in the 1930s and 1940s. In some ways, the flu shot vaccine has caused heightened awareness for caregivers, because there’s always a chance that someone who receives the flu shot can still contract the virus.
Urgent Care Extra’s Role During Flu Season
We hope you enjoyed this brief trip through history, and also gained an appreciation for the hard work, persistence and sometimes chance events that played a crucial role in developing the flu shot. Of course, with flu season here, you’ll want to protect yourself and your loved ones. Urgent Care Extra, Arizona’s premier network of walk-in, no-appointment-necessary healthcare clinics, offers effective and affordable flu shots for the entire family!
Just walk right in, and we’ll get you the latest approved vaccine shot for the 2016-2017 flu season. With so many people vulnerable, it’s a good idea to get a flu shot in September or October. The CDC’s own statistics show that infants under one year old are nearly 4 times more likely to require hospitalization from the flu than children ages 1-4. The elderly are also prone to more severe flu symptoms.
Also, please keep in mind that a second flu shot may be required to keep up with the flu virus’ constantly changing strains. If another strain develops in the late fall, winter or early spring, please visit our office for updates. If required, we can provide secondary flu shots as well. Regardless of ever-changing disease conditions, the folks at Urgent Care Extra retain a strong and robust medical network to keep you and your family as safe as possible.
Stop by any of our urgent care centers today. To learn more about our flu shot, or for additional information about the 2016-2017 flu season, please call our main office at (480) 988-9108. Thanks for reading our blog, and be sure to check back for more useful health-related info and articles!