Every now and then, human beings experience a breakthrough. Something is discovered or invented that moves us quickly from one era to another.

Penicillin gave us a way to treat a number of previously deadly diseases. The steam engine provided a way to power the factories, trains and ships of the Industrial Revolution. Then there’s the printing press, ranked by The Atlantic magazine as the top innovation since the discovery of the wheel. Martin Luther may not have used the printing press to start the Protestant Reformation, but it sure helped to spread his ideas around Europe.

Other significant innovations include paper, gunpowder, electricity, refrigeration, the internet, and the moldboard plow (the first plow to dig soil up and also turn it over. Whether well-known or not, this, too, was a life-changing invention!). More than just inventions, such innovations as these I’ve identified are breakthroughs, actually.

And lest I neglect to mention one other type of significant breakthrough, I should say that vaccinations are appropriate to include in this list. Hundreds of years ago, Buddhist monks consumed small quantities of snake venom, which resulted in immunity to snake bites. During the 17th century, in China, immunity to smallpox was prompted by smearing cowpox over a tear in one’s skin. In 1798, the first smallpox vaccine was produced two years after Edward Jenner — considered the West’s founder of the study and development of vaccines — injected a teenage boy with cowpox to demonstrate a method to immunize people against smallpox.

I remember getting my smallpox vaccine as a child in the early 1960s, an event that left a telltale scar on my left arm near the shoulder. I recently Googled photos of smallpox to see what could have happened had I not received the vaccination. As a result of viewing those photos, I’m more than happy that my parents had me get the vaccine those many decades ago!

Now, exactly one week ago, my wife and I received our second Moderna vaccinations to help provide protection against COVID-19. As pleased as I am to have received the smallpox vaccination as a child, I’m ecstatic now to have received both doses of the coronavirus vaccine. I believe this will help protect not just myself, but also others among whom I am around from this day on.

Whether or not you are one who believes in vaccines, I encourage us all to do whatsoever we can to help protect one another from a further outbreak of COVID-19. I believe it is our ethical and moral duty to care for others, as well as ourselves. At the very least, let’s continue to wear face masks and abide by safe distance protocols until such time as this virus is well behind us!

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Marc Mullins is pastor of the First Christian Church of Pendleton, Oregon, where he also utilizes his gifts as a musician, singer and songwriter.

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