Warp Speed vaccines? You go first.

Who doesn't crave magic-bullet solutions?

In the 1940s, tooth decay in children triggered the quest for a magic bullet.  Dentists around the world unanimously agreed that public water fluoridation was the least inexpensive and most effective solution to prevent cavities.  This was an incredible idea that was simply too good to be true..

Before long, chiropractors, herbalists, politicians, religious leaders, and moms began to hear rumors of  "tooth mottling" and "low-grade chronic fluoride poisoning." 

With fluoride compounds identified as a key ingredient in many insecticides, someone suggested that maybe this chemical wasn't such a good idea for children. 

Some countries enacted laws requiring mandatory fluoridation, and some countries (Germany, Sweden, Russia, and Japan) tried fluoride for 10 or 20 years, then decided to return to chlorination after studies found disturbing links between fluoridation and brain lesions, particularly in juveniles and seniors.

High levels of calcium fluoride, occurring naturally in water and soils, especially in rural India, were linked to skeletal fluorosis, deformities, and joint calcification — but, thankfully, there were very few dental caries. 

Experts, scientists, and physicians of every specialty, from every country, still have strong opinions on both sides of the fluoridation issue.  I'm not arguing for (or against) public water treatments because I eat just as much toothpaste as anyone else.  So what does my cavity-versus-brain-lesion rant have to do with COVID-19?

Reviewing the history of pandemics, including the three Black Plagues of Africa (541 A.D.), Asia/Crimea (1347), and China (1894), we find that neither ancient nor modern medicine has produced a "cure" for Yersinia pestis

From 1918 to 1920, the "Spanish Flu," a distant cousin of COVID-19, "jumped species" (bird to human) and killed 50 million worldwide, including approximately 675,000 in the USA.  Again, no cure was ever found — just resilient human genes. 

An enlightening 1998 PBS documentary (Influenza 1918) contained conclusions from health care professionals regarding the effectiveness of face masks.  Here's a segment from the 20-page original transcript.

Narrator:

In many places, officials rushed through laws requiring people to wear masks in public. All of America, it seemed, put on masks. At last, many thought, they were safe. But masks didn't help. They were thin and porous — no serious restraint to tiny microbes. It was like trying to keep out dust with chicken wire. 

In Washington, D.C., Commissioner Louis Brownlow banned all public gatherings. He closed the city's schools, theaters and bars. He quarantined the sick. He did everything he had the power to do. But the death rate in Washington kept rising[.]

If masks didn't work in 1918, why are we led to believe they'll work in 2020?  I know, stupid question...Dr. Fauci wasn't alive in 1918.

In 1977, a historic failure known as The National Swine Flu Immunization Program was born.  This government-approved mass inoculation effort was considered a fail-safe solution.  Experts guaranteed, as with most epic programs, that this would stop the bad piggy known as Swine Flu, the nasty second cousin to COVID-19. 

With absolute certainty, leaders predicted that initial outbreaks of this pig-to-human virus would grow into an inevitable, deadly pandemic monster, equivalent to the infamous Black Plagues.

With approximately 25% of the U.S. population vaccinated, the program was abruptly terminated in 1979 because of unforeseen allergic reactions, likely from some rogue "attenuated live" (AKA not dead) virus.  Additional public distrust was generated when coincidentally (?) high numbers of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) cases occurred.  Who woulda thunk it? 

This gigantic false alarm was later termed "The Gerald Ford Pandemic That Never Was," and Harry Schwartz, of the N.Y. Times, dubbed the entire effort "a fiasco…but probably one of the largest and most well-intentioned public health initiatives by the U.S. government[.]"

Aren't most unsuccessful bureaucratic programs "well intentioned," full of expert-fortified advice and loaded with nuanced, complex rationalizations?

Oh wait, I almost forgot.  There was another Swine Flu national emergency declared by President Obama in 2009.  Although pigs can't fly, apparently Swine Flu never dies.

Despite massive efforts, research, and expenditures during the 1976 "fiasco," the CDC announced, on September 24, 2009, "The effectiveness of respirators and facemasks in preventing transmission of 2009 H1N1 (or seasonal influenza) in various settings is not known[.]"  At least the professionals know what they're talking about...or not.

Back to our trip down Memory Lane, let's be thankful that in 1945, Grand Rapids, Michigan became the first city to introduce fluoride into its public water supply.  The CDC's current website pats itself on the back by proclaiming the 75th anniversary of fluoridation as "one of public health's greatest success stories."  I'll drink to that!

Good intentions and face masks weren't sufficient in 1918, 1976, or 2009, but perhaps they'll save millions in 2020.  Let's watch (and pray) as these, the Mothers of All Pandemic Vaccines, begin a glorious charge into battle, at Warp Speed.  But, until our herd is immunized, cover your faces with "chicken wire" masks and have a refreshing glass of vintage calcium fluoride. 

When it's time for mass confirmation of these magic bullets...you go first.