By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Throughout history, public health measures have played an important role. Our Founding Fathers were big believers in those measures.

Benjamin Franklin wrote a guide to home remedies called “Every Man His Own Doctor”. One of his recommendations related to a virulent typhus epidemic. He advocated for quarantine measures for the citizens. That would help end the epidemic.

During the Revolutionary War General Washington realized that 90 percent of deaths were not combat related. They were caused by diseases. Smallpox was the most deadly of those diseases. The British were already inoculated so they did not have as much of an issue.

Unfortunately, the people who lived in the Americas did not believe in smallpox inoculation. This anti-vaccine movement began in 1720 with the great orator Cotton Mather. He spread misinformation that everyone believed.

This fear and anxiety continued well into the late 18th century. One result was that the Continental Congress in 1776 issued a proclamation that prohibited the Army surgeons from inoculation.

They were bending to the will of the population. It was not about what was the right thing to do. Benjamin Franklin was one of the individuals who felt that smallpox would ultimately be the determining factor in the outcome of the war.

But on Jan. 6, 1777 George Washington wrote a note to Dr. William Shippen. He asked for mandatory smallpox inoculation of all the troops that came through Philadelphia.

During the month of Feb. 1777 a massive inoculation campaign took place. The result was that during the remainder of the war not a single regiment became incapacitated because of smallpox. In the meantime, the Native Americans and slaves who chose to fight with the British were decimated by smallpox during the war.

This approach was as brilliant as Washington’s military prowess. Mandatory vaccination was a huge success.

In 1813, James Madison realized the value of smallpox inoculation. He signed into law “An Act to Encourage Vaccination”. The act created a National Vaccine Agency. It made shipping of vaccine materials through the U.S. free from postage. Thus like COVID-19 vaccine, it made it free to all Americans.

Public health requirements are nothing new. Resistance to them is nothing new either. However, history has shown that good public health measures are the smart way to approach problems like infectious diseases.

COVID update- Much ado has been made about the delta variant of COVID-19. We know that Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines offer protection against this variant.

Our immune system frequently is exposed to things for which we already have immunity. When that happens, our body makes new antibodies. Thus the levels of natural antibodies rise.

The expectation would be that those immunized to COVID-19 would do likewise. Thus a vaccinated individual that is exposed to the delta variant will make additional COVID antibodies to the original strain to fight the infection.

As an added benefit, that individual should also begin making natural antibodies against the delta variant due to the natural exposure. That would make them more protected than just what would happen with the vaccine.

We do not yet have scientific evidence to support that. However, since that is the way the immune system normally works, that would be the expectation.

Individuals without the vaccine will also be exposed to the delta variant. The variant is more infectious than the original virus. Therefore, they can expect to get a COVID infection from it.

The largest group of unvaccinated individuals is children. The expectation is that they will see the most cases because of that. In March children made up 2 percent of new COVID-19 infections. By the end of May they accounted for 24 percent of new COVID-19 infections.

This is not really a surprise. It is what would be expected when a large portion of older people became vaccinated. Infections increase in susceptible individuals.

To this point over 4 million children have been infected. Of that group 18,500 have been hospitalized. Of that group 336 have died. That is consistent with the 0.01 percent mortality rate for that group.

Many restrictions were lifted on July 1. That is logical. One of the reasons for the original restrictions was to try and keep the infection numbers low enough so that hospitals would not be overwhelmed. The current infection rate is now low enough that hospitals can handle the number of cases without being overloaded.