What is the history of vaccinations?
With the recent news of the Covid-19 vaccination, this marked the fastest time between the development and formal acceptance of a vaccine by authorized medical authorities in recent history. However, vaccinations have now been with us for more than 200 years and ever since the discovery that there were ways to vaccinate against some infectious diseases there have also been some who resisted the idea of being vaccinated.
The Earliest Vaccines
There is some potential evidence of early attempts at vaccinations in the Near East and China in the early Medieval period. This mainly involved giving the infected individual small amounts of the disease. This included attempts to inoculate for smallpox. Additionally, in Asia there are reports of monks and individuals who would swallow snake venom to create a form of inoculation. However, in the West, the history of vaccinations mainly begins with Edward Jenner in 1798, an English physician, who took Variolae vaccinae (cowpox) and used that to inoculate a 13-year old boy from smallpox. This is often seen as a watershed moment in the West, as it begins the long history of vaccinations and, in fact, this single event is often credited with saving more humans than any other action, given the countless other vaccinations and subsequent generations this initial round of vaccinations saved. The term vaccinations, in fact, derives from the virus that causes smallpox, given the importance of that disease in the history of vaccinations.