The ‘Sterilizing Immunity’ Delusion: No Vaccine Is Good

In 1846, the Danish doctor Peter Ludvig Panum traveled to the Faroe Islands in the hunt for measles. The rocky archipelago, which sits some 200 miles north of Scotland, had been slammed with an outbreak, and Panum was dispatched by his authorities to analyze. The journey predated the formal discovery of viruses and antibodies by a number of a long time, however Panum nonetheless stumbled upon a beguiling immunological pattern: Dozens of the islands’ eldest residents, who had survived one other measles epidemic in 1781—65 years earlier—weren’t getting sick this time round. “Not one, so far as I might discover out by cautious inquiry,” he wrote in a treatise, “was attacked the second time.”

Panum in all probability didn’t notice it then, however his observations helped spark the inklings of a notion that may survive his century, into the following, and the following: the promise of good immunity, a safety

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