9 May 2022
24-30 April 2022 was World Immunisation Week. Vaccines have been in the news a lot recently, but they have a long history.
I want to start with a little quiz. You'll find the answers in the main part of the blog.
For which disease was the first vaccine successfully created?
Vaccines currently protect again how many diseases?
How many deaths per year does immunisation prevent?
A. 1-2 million
C. 4-5 million
Edward Jenner is usually called 'the father of immunology'. He created the first vaccine in the world. The story of the creation of this vaccine is quite interesting.
In 1796, Jenner noticed that dairymaids did not develop smallpox, a serious infectious disease caused by the variola virus, when they were infected by the cowpox virus. Eventually, he decided to test whether the cowpox virus could be used to protect against smallpox.
He found a young dairymaid who had fresh cowpox lesions. Using matter from her pustules, he inoculated James Phips, his gardener's eight-year-old son, and after a few days of fever and discomfort, the boy recovered.
Two months later, the physician inoculated James again, but this time with the smallpox virus. No disease developed, leading Jenner to conclude that protection was complete.
After several trials on other people, he proved that people infected by cowpox were immune to smallpox. With this procedure, Jenner invented the smallpox vaccination. This was the beginning of the vaccine era.
Unfortunately, eradicating disease is very hard work, and it can only be achieved if all the world works together to reach the aim. While smallpox was the first eradicated disease in the world, it took until 1980 to achieve this, and the disease killed a total of 300 million people worldwide up until then.
Nowadays, there are plenty of vaccines that protect people from different diseases. Immunisation protects people from around 20-30 diseases. Rinderpest, polio, and rubella are other diseases we don't often hear about now because of vaccines.
New scientific findings allow scientists to create vaccines that we could only dream about a few decades ago. Currently, vaccines prevent around 4-5 million deaths each year.
By taking a vaccine, you boost your immune system, protect yourself and others from diseases, and help to prevent new variants of virus occurring.