Origins of ordinary things: Vaccines

Unlike most medicines that treat or cure diseases, vaccines boost our bodies’ immune system to prevent serious, life-threatening diseases. Wikipedia and encyclopedia, defines vaccination as the administration of a vaccine to help the immune system develop protection from a disease. Vaccines contain a microorganism in a weakened or killed state, or proteins or toxins from the organism. In stimulating the body’s adaptive immunity, they help prevent sickness from an infectious disease.

Although the Oxford English Dictionary credits the French for coining the term vaccine in 1800 and vaccination in 1803, History of vaccines, an educational website created by The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, reveals that the world’s first vaccine was created for smallpox  in 1796 by English physician ,Edward Jenner.

His innovations, begun with his successful 1796 use of cowpox material to create immunity to smallpox, which quickly made the practice widespread. Smallpox was a contagious and deadly disease, causing the deaths of 20–60 per cent of infected adults and over 80% of infected children. When smallpox was finally eradicated in 1979, it had already killed an estimated 300–500 million people in the 20th century.

Jenner’s vaccination soon became the major means of preventing smallpox around the world. His method underwent medical and technological changes over the next 200 years, and eventually resulted in the eradication of smallpox.

The immunisation was called vaccination because it was derived from a virus affecting. The word vaccine, and vaccination, actually comes from the name for a pox virus—the cowpox virus, called vaccinia.

In 1801 American president Thomas Jefferson declared smallpox vaccination one of the nation’s first public health priorities. A few years later, he instructed Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to take doses of smallpox vaccine on their mission to the Pacific.

Louis Pasteur, a French biologist and microbiologist was the next to make an impact on human disease by creating the rabies vaccine in 1885. At the dawn of bacteriology, developments rapidly followed, antitoxins and vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, anthrax, cholera, plague, typhoid, tuberculosis, and more were developed through the 1930s.

The middle of the 20th century then became an active time for vaccine research and development. Methods for growing viruses in the laboratory led to rapid discoveries and innovations, including the creation of vaccines for polio. Researchers targeted other common childhood diseases such as measles, mumps, and rubella, and vaccines for these diseases reduced the disease burden greatly.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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