Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The History Of Modern Vaccination

Edward Jenner vaccinating James Phipps.

Although a form of immunisation was used in ancient China, modern vaccination was developed by Doctor Edward Jenner. Jenner was a doctor who worked in Gloucestershire and the great advance he made was to notice that individuals who had contracted cowpox (the cow's equivalent of smallpox) rarely caught the deadly human version. In 1796 he deliberately infected an eight year old boy called James Phipps with the pus from a cowpox sore. The boy became ill with cowpox but recovered. He then infected him with the normally deadly smallpox. As Jenner had predicted the earlier infection with the cowpox actually protected the boy who never caught smallpox. The practice of modern vaccination was born.

After many more successful vaccinations, Jenner published his results in 1798. However, they were met with skepticism and many doctors still carried out the more dangerous practice of inoculation with live smallpox pus. It was not until 1840 that this dangerous practice was banned and in 1853 vaccination by Jenner's method was made compulsory. Protestors argued against compulsory vaccination, saying that it limited their personal choice; a similar debate to the one raging today over the HPV and H1N1 vaccines.

In modern times, smallpox was judged to be the first vaccine-preventable disease and the World Health Organisation coordinated the global effort to eradicate the disease. The last naturally occurring case of smallpox was reported in Somalia in 1977 and the WHO's vaccination programme was judged to be the cause.

The next disease targeted by the WHO for global eradication was polio, with a target of the year 2000. This target has been missed, but eradication of polio is said to be very close, thanks to the vaccination programme. The next target is likely to be Measles.

Combined vaccinations are now widely used around the world, a result of the rapid increase in the number of shots recommended in current schedules.

In the UK, before a child goes to school at around age 4/5, he will have had a wide range of vaccinations, mostly combined.
  • Two months old: Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  • Pneumococcal infection
  • Three months old: Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  • Meningitis C
  • Four months old: Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)Meningitis C
  • Pneumococcal infection
  • Around 12 months: Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) Meningitis C
  • Around 13 months: Measles, mumps and rubella, Pneumococcal infection
  • Three years and four months or soon after:Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio. Measles, mumps and rubella.
During the school years:
  • Girls aged 12-13 years: cervical cancer caused by human papillomavirus, types 16 and 18
  • 13 - 18 year olds: diphtheria, tetanus, polio.
Vaccination, as the administration of antigenic material to produce immunity to disease, is thought to be the most effective and cost-effective method of preventing infectious diseases.

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