The Way History of Vaccination Started From Smallpox Disease

Ten thousand years ago an extremely contagious and deadly virus arose in northeastern Africa. The disease was airborne negatively affecting the bone marrow, skin cells, spleen, lymph nodes. Symptom includes severe skin rashes, fever, diarrhea, and vomiting. Roughly 30 percent of the people infected would die in the second week of infection. This virus is widely known as smallpox. The earliest outbreak if the diseases happen in 1350 b.c during the Egyptian Hittite war, in which it devastated the Hittite civilization. Smallpox was spread across the world through Egyptian merchants. 

Smallpox was introduced to Europe sometime between the fifth and sixth centuries and was later brought to the New World by Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors, where it decimated the native populations. During Europe in the 18th century, smallpox was extremely rampant, claiming 400,000 lives each year, with up to 60 percent of those infected would die, with an 80 percent fatality rate for infected children. In the 18th century Europe, smallpox was widespread, claiming an estimated 400,000 lives each year, including five reigning monarchs. Researchers estimate that between 20% and 60% of all infected persons, and 80% of infected children, died from the disease. 

However smallpox was not unbeatable, in 1022 A.D. a Buddhist monk in China figured out a method for the non-infected to protect themselves from the virus. The Monk noticed that those who survived smallpox never contract the disease again. The monk would grind up the scraps from smallpox and blow them into the nostrils of healthy people this technique is called variolation. This allows healthy individuals who are exposed to the virus to build natural defenses against smallpox through their immune system. This procedure would eventually evolve were doctor take the pus from the sores from infected people and put them into those who are not infected through scratching the healthy individual’s skin with the infected material. The patient would experience symptoms similar to those of smallpox but less severe. Many of those who are inoculated will not get reinfected .However, variolation was still a dangerous procedure as roughly 3 percent of people who are exposed to the smallpox material would die. 

In 1757 thousands of children in England were treated with variolation, one of those children was Edward Jenner. As boy Jenner had an immense interest in nature and science, this would lead him to study medicine and become a physician. Jenner would eventually discover a much more effective and far less risky method to inoculate patients from smallpox and many other diseases. During his practice of medicine Jenner would perform variolation on his patients in the rural parts of England. In this period Jenner noticed that dairymaids did not develop deadly smallpox. They did, however, contract cowpox which is skin diseases that infect cows. Smallpox and cowpox come from the same family of viruses but when cowpox infects an unusual host it is much less virulent, Jenner would later decide to test whether the cowpox virus can be used to protect individuals from smallpox. In 1976 Jenner found a young dairymaid, named Sarah Nelms who had fresh smallpox lesions on her body she contracted from the cows she worked with. Using the infected materials from her pustules, he inoculated an 8-year-old boy named James Phipps. After 10 days of mild fever and loss of appetite, the boy recovered. A couple of months later Jenner would inoculate the boy again, this time using matter from a fresh smallpox lesion. No disease was able to develop in the boy and Jenner concluded that the protection was complete and a major revelation in medicine was found. Later Jenner used the cowpox virus on several other healthy people and then inoculated them with the smallpox virus, none of them develop the smallpox virus proving that they were all immune. This new procedure would later be called vaccination were the named is derived from the Latin word Vacca meaning cow and vaccinia meaning cowpox. 

Unlike variolation which uses the actuals dangerous smallpox virus, vaccination uses the milder cowpox virus to protect people from smallpox. In 1797, Jenner communicated with the Royal Society describing his experiments and observations but his papers were rejected.He later added more cases to his experiments and privately published a book called An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae. His publication was met with mixed reaction from the medical establishment causing strong deliberation as many doctors were very hesitant to give up their established methods of variolation in favour of vaccination. Jenner went to London to search for volunteers for vaccination but was not successful in her search. Vaccination became popular in London through the activities of others, particularly the surgeon Henry Cline, who was previously inoculated by Jenner, Many doctors began to support the practice of vaccination among their patients.Jenner conducted a nationwide survey to determine if the vaccination methods protected people from smallpox as opposed to variolation. Jenner’s theory was confirmed from the results of the survey. Eventually, the medical establishment caved and the uses of vaccination became widespread in England, by 1800 vaccination became widely used in throughout all of Europe. Throughout the western hemisphere, more people have been immune to smallpox due to the use of the cowpox vaccination. Jenner has received worldwide recognition and awards for his discovery. Napoleon Bonaparte announced that every citizen in France must be vaccinated.U.S president Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to Jenner expressing his profused admiration and thanks. Despite his accolades, Jenner did not want to gain wealth and fame from his discovery. He received ten thousand pounds from the British parliament for his work and returned home to his home in Gloucestershire, England to continue his practice in medicine was he vaccinated impoverished patients for free .He continued this practice until his death in 1823. By 1840 the variolation was prohibited and vaccination became compulsory in 1853 in England. The mortality rates from smallpox had declined in the 19th and 20th centuries, but outbreaks were still prevalent especially in the developing world. In 1967 the World Health Organization started a global eradication campaign against smallpox through mass vaccination worldwide. By 1980 smallpox vaccination has been completely eradicated from the world.Jenner’s discovery in vaccination has been used in countless other diseases other than smallpox, including influenza, hepatitis, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox. 

In general, the methods of vaccination have improved as well as vaccination now introduces the healthy individual with a safe amount of the virus or bacteria that have been killed or weakened. Which causes the immune system to adapt to a virus so the body can properly defend against any disease the patient might come across later in their life without ever falling ill. Edward Jenner’s work has saved more human lives than any human that has ever existed. Rightfully earning his title as the father of immunology.

07 July 2022
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