We should not dismiss the possibility of eradicating COVID-19: Comparison with smallpox

Saesha Kukreja
8 min readDec 14, 2021

This article was inspired by the video ‘Can we get rid of Covid-19 forever?’ by Vox. You can check it out here.

Smallpox is the only human disease we have ever completely eradicated; therefore, it upholds a golden standard for disease eradication. It used four factors that completely eliminated the virus: a vaccine, absence of animal vectors, global effort, and contact tracing and isolation. Depending on these factors, we can change the fate of COVID-19 and work towards eradication.

Image by Canva

Vaccines

First, let’s analyze the availability of vaccines. Vaccinations are essential to stimulate a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease¹. A scientist named Edward Jenner pioneered the concept of vaccines and devised a new technique to battle smallpox in the late 1700s by developing the world’s first vaccine: the smallpox vaccine.

Credit: Edward Jenner. Oil painting. Wellcome Collection.

Before vaccines were developed, the only way you could develop immunity was from catching a disease; however, vaccines have proven to be considerably less risky and much more efficient. Under normal circumstances, making a vaccine can take up to 10–15 years; however, amid this global pandemic, researchers quickly mobilized to share their coronavirus data with other scientists to rapidly make coronavirus vaccines without compromising safety². This is why all the COVID vaccines such as Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen are all good signs, as the vaccination in itself is enough to substantially reduce cases in the future. Overall, the formula for a vaccination makes us 25% closer to eradication.

Animal Vectors

Next are animal vectors, which refer to the living organisms that can transmit infectious diseases between humans or from animals to humans³. Humans could only contract smallpox from other humans; animal vectors were not present. As a result, the vaccination meant that we would gradually eliminate the only source of infection. COVID-19, on the other hand, has animal…

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Saesha Kukreja

Biology Major 🔬/ Author of Quaranteen 🖋/ Avid Reader and Bibliophile 📚