Vaccine needed!

First successful smallpox vaccine was in 1796.

An observant English doctor, Edward Jenner, noticed that the young girls who milked the cows did not get smallpox if they had previously had cowpox. That led him to using the live cowpox virus to inoculate against smallpox. That was used until the 19th century when a modern vaccine was found. A global campaign against smallpox lasted from 1958 to 1977. Smallpox has now been eradicated, but the scars on many of our arms still exist. I remember my mother had a huge scar, but mine has almost disappeared.

Smallpox existed for centuries. I read that during the Ming Dynasty in China (1567-1572) scabs from the smallpox were dried and ground into power. People would then inhale the powder and develop a mild case of smallpox. Sounds gross, but apparently it worked. The 1700s brought a new type of inoculation or variolation. That is a new word for me! Pus from a smallpox patient was placed in a healthy person where an incision had been made. It was then wrapped for eight days. The person being inoculated would get a mild case of smallpox. It didn’t always work, and some got very sick and died.

I barely remember my smallpox vaccine, but I do remember my polio vaccine. I was in elementary school and all children were lined up and we received our shots. Later oral polio vaccine was given, but is no longer given in the United States.

Today scientists are working on a coronavirus vaccine. I join everyone in praying for this. When (not if) we get one, I wonder how many people will get it? Less than half of Americans get a flu shot each year.

2 thoughts on “Vaccine needed!

  1. I read that George Washington required that new army enlistees get smallpox inoculations as they traveled through Philadelphia beginning in January 1777. He didn’t tell Congress until a month later to keep the secret from the British. Most Americans did not have natural immunity from the disease which killed one third of all who contracted it. Even Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Martha Washington had smallpox inoculations in the fall of 1776.


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