A Quick History Lesson on Vaccinations

The first vaccination ever was for smallpox. In 1796, Edward Jenner, saw that people who got cowpox did not get sick from smallpox. He gave a young boy the cowpox virus to protect him from smallpox. This was done by scratching liquid from cowpox sores into the boy's skin. This same method using liquid from sores was also used to give people smallpox. People did this so they might get smallpox on one place on their body. Then they could pick which body part got scars from smallpox. But sometimes people who did this got very sick from smallpox. Some even died. This was a dangerous thing to do. But people did it because it was less dangerous than getting smallpox.

Edward Jenner gave the boy cowpox in the same way people tried to give smallpox. Six weeks later, he scratched smallpox into the boy's skin. The boy did not get sick from smallpox. This boy was the first person ever to get a vaccination. It was not almost 100 years after the smallpox vaccination was medicine found the next vaccination was found for cholera.

However by the late 1940s, scientific knowledge had developed enough, so that large-scale vaccine production was possible and disease control efforts could begin in earnest.

The next routinely recommended vaccines were developed early in the 20th century. These included vaccines that protect against pertussis, diphtheria, and tetanus. In 1963 the measles vaccine was developed, and by the late 1960s, vaccines were also available to protect against mumps and rubella. During the 1970s, one less vaccine was used than during the previous decade. Because of successful eradication efforts, the smallpox vaccine was no longer recommended for use after 1971. While vaccine research continued, new vaccines were not introduced during the 1970s.

As more vaccines became available, an annual update to the schedule was important because of changes that providers needed to know, such as detailed information about who should receive each vaccine, age(s) of receipt, number of doses, time between doses, or use of combination vaccines. New vaccines were also added. The importance of vaccine safety will continue to grow throughout the 21st century. The development and licensure of new vaccines will add to the already complicated immunization scheduling. Scientists may also perfect new ways of administering immunizations including edible vaccines and needleless injections.

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