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Carrington College Blog

History of Vaccines

February 19, 2015

While Edward Jenner is commonly considered the inventor of the first vaccine – he used material from cowpox pustules as an immunization for smallpox – the vaccine history actually goes back much farther. In fact, the history of vaccinations begins with the discovery of infectious diseases. The earliest records of such infections date back to 400 BC, when Hippocrates described the symptoms of mumps, diphtheria, epidemic jaundice, malaria, and tetanus, among others. Persian physician Rhazes was the first to publish an account attempting to describe the differences between measles and smallpox in 400 BC.

Furthermore, evidence suggests that the Chinese used smallpox inoculation (i.e. variolation, the purposeful infection of a person with smallpox to minimize severity of disease and immunize against future infections) as early as 1000 BC.  The son of a Chinese statesman is said to have inhaled pulverized smallpox scabs through his nose. Another method was to scratch material from a smallpox scab into the skin. Variations of variolation have been noted in Turkey, Africa, China, and in parts of Europe and the Americas.