Vaccine History – Part 1

In this series of articles, you will learn how vaccines came to be and how they have evolved over the years.

By Pierina D’Amico

Translation by Sumit Khanna

Do you know what a vaccine is? Do you think it is synonymous with injection? If you answered “yes” to both questions, you should continue reading. Knowing the history will help you correct some misconceptions about the subject.

In order to understand the history of vaccination, it is important to first know what a vaccine is. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a vaccine is any preparation intended to generate immunity against a disease by stimulating the production of antibodies. Although the most common method of administering vaccines is by injection, some are given by nasal or oral spray.

Now that you understand the concept, it won’t surprise you to learn that the origin of vaccination has nothing to do with injections.

There is evidence that smallpox inoculation (or variolation) was used by the Chinese as early as the 10th century. Various accounts from the 16th century describe how the scabs of sick people were powdered and snorted into the nose of healthy people or scraped into their skin to immunize them.

In fact, in 1661, the Kangxi Emperor wrote a letter to his descendants in which he said: “At first, when I had it tested on one or two people, some old women accused me of being extravagant and spoke very strongly against the inoculation. The courage I mustered to insist on its practice has saved the lives and health of millions of men. This is something extremely important, of which I am very proud.”

Before spreading to Europe and America, variolation was also practiced in India, Turkey and some African towns. However, this method presented risks such as the inoculated people suffering severely from smallpox or other diseases.

This is how, looking for a more effective and safer method of immunization, vaccination emerged.

In “Vaccine History – Part 2”, you will see how the next step in the history of vaccination changed the world.


La historia de las vacunas, fundamentales en la lucha contra las enfermedades, Iberdrola, Unspecified date

Timeline, The History of Vaccines, Date not specified

Variolización, Wikipedia, January 17, 2022

Vacuna, Wikipedia, February 23, 202222

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