history of Vaccines
The history of vaccines starts centuries ago, with some accounts dating back to 2000 B.C. In the 1500s, smallpox inoculations took place in India and China. In the 17th century, Buddist monks drank snake venom for immunity as an early form of vaccination. Smallpox Inoculation meant cutting up smallpox scabs and blowing them into the nostrils, the left nostril for the girls and right nostril for the boys. Even though Emperor K’ang Hsi had his children inoculated, these practices did not spread to the rest of the country and the smallpox epidemic continued for 200 years.

Most virologists cite 1796 as the history of vaccines’ beginning. Edward Jenner was a country doctor living in England when he performed the first vaccination in history. He took pus from a cowpox wound and injecting it into James Phillips, an 8-year-old boy. Six weeks later Jenner visited the two spots with smallpox on Phillips’s arm to find he was not affected. In addition, Jenner did 12 more experiments and 16 case studies before publishing “Inquiry Into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccines.” Cow-pox protects humans from the infection of smallpox created the foundation for vaccinology.

Advancements in Vaccines

Until 1885 after the invention of a rabies vaccine, the word “ vaccine” had only referred to smallpox inoculation. The history of vaccines continued with French physicians Albert Calmette and Camille Guerin creating the tuberculosis vaccine by weakening the bacteria over 230 versions. Furthermore, the first influenza vaccine emerged in the 1940s, 10 years after the discovery of the virus. The U.S. Army sponsored the flu vaccine and used fertilized chicken eggs, something still used today.

In 1952, the U.S. reached 57,879 polio cases resulting in 3,145 deaths. Survivors ended up in wheelchairs or crutches, severely paralyzed or having to use an iron lung to breathe. Moreover, Jonas Salk created the Polio Virus vaccine in 1955. Consequently, Salk became one of the most celebrated scientists in the world. Between 1955 and 1962, more than 400 million vaccines were distributed under leading drug manufacturers and polio cases were reduced by 90%.

Vaccine Safety Worldwide

In 1901, the U.S. Congress passed The Biologics Control Act which regulated the selling of serums, toxins and analogic products. This was the first legislation in the history of vaccines for managing vaccines and drugs. Additionally, the act established the Hygienic Laboratory of the U.S. Public Health Service, now known as the National Institution of Health.

Since then, other countries have taken many steps to ensure vaccine safety. China currently has a three-level moderating system for monitoring vaccines. The country’s vaccine industry is able to produce over 1 billion doses per year for preventing 30+ diseases. Moreover, vaccine efforts have made significant progress in Bangladesh. The country has established two production facilities for vaccines. In addition, Bangladesh has increased the monitoring of Adverse Events following Immunization (AEFI).

COVID-19 Vaccine

While vaccine development has advanced since Edward Jenner’s invention of vaccinology, citizens all around the world are waiting for a new event in vaccine history: the coronavirus vaccine. With 22.4 million cases worldwide, 778,000 deaths and countries re-entering lockdown, it’s no exaggeration to say a COVID-19 vaccine is necessary to end the pandemic. The good news is that over 165 vaccines have undergone development around the world. About 35 of the vaccines are in the human trial stage and two vaccines have received approval for early or limited use.

The U.S. is running an experimental vaccine, mRNA-1273, in the phase one trial. The Washington Health Research Institute, being led by Lisa Jackson, began the initial trial in March with 45 participants from 18 to 55 years old. In April 2020, the trial expanded to add citizens over the age of 55 and 120 participants. After no serious side effects occurred, phase two began in late May 2020 and Phase 3 launched in early July 2020.

A Chinese company Cansino Biologics partnered with the Academy of Military Medical Sciences to create the Ad5 vaccine. In May, phase one was completed with promise. In July, the company concluded that phase two produced “a strong immune response.” In addition, the military approved the vaccine after just two trial runs on June 25 as a needed drug. The third trial will take place in Saudi Arabia and negotiations with other countries are taking place.

The failures and successes of the coronavirus vaccine all add to the history of vaccines. The quality of life has drastically increased thanks to Jenner’s first vaccine trials in 1796. With the help of vaccines, polio measles and smallpox cases are incredibly rare in the 21st century. Using the history of vaccines and the invention of new technology, a COVID-19 vaccine is right on the horizon.

Breanna Bonner
Photo: Flickr