Vaccination History

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The evolution of vaccination started with the deadly disease smallpox which was lost in the pre – history and believed to have started in 10,000 BC and its presence had been felt as early as 1122 BC in China. The spread of smallpox caused many lives and people kept on searching for a cure on how to prevent the fatal causing disease.

Before the discovery of vaccination people combated smallpox through inoculation wherein non – immune individuals were instilled with the smallpox virus that helped in lowering the mortality rate of those who were affected with the disease. Inoculation later became known as variolation in Europe with the continuous advocacy of Lady Mary Wortley Montague who was responsible for its introduction in England after coming back to Europe from Turkey where she got the method of inoculation. In the year, 1721 variolation was performed and tried on 6 prisoners which were observed by several colleges and physicians. All prisoners survived the experiment and this made variolation a common practice in Europe as a preventive measure for smallpox.

Benjamin Jesty was the first person to vaccinate against smallpox in 1774 when their place was infected by the dreaded disease. His determination in protecting his family he used materials from udders of cattle infected with smallpox and transferred it to his wife and two boys. The family remained free from smallpox in spite of their exposure to it.

Edward Jenner was credited for the development of vaccination. Jenner was a doctor in Gloucestershire who took notice of individuals that were affected by cowpox (the cow’s equivalent to smallpox). He observed these individuals were rarely affected by smallpox. In the year 1796, he deliberately introduced the pus of cowpox sore to an eight year old boy named James Phipps. The boy became ill after the transfer of the cowpox sore but recovered. Again, Jenner infected the boy with the deadly smallpox and as he assumed the boy never caught smallpox because he was protected from his earlier infection of cowpox. This gave birth to the modern practice of vaccination.

Jenner had more successful vaccinations and he published his results in 1798. His publications were met with disbelief and cynicisms and most of the doctors still carried out the more dangerous inoculation process with live smallpox pus. Until inoculation was banned in 1840 and by the year 1853 Jenner’s method was enforced.
Although it was Benjamin Jesty who first discovered the idea of vaccination it was Jenner’s continuous support for the cause of vaccination that changed the way it was practiced in medicine.