History of Vaccines

By: Srushti Nerkar

From: Princeton Junction, NJ, USA

Who knew that technology would play an essential role in the field of medicine - especially biology? If you told someone this about fifty years ago, they would definitely be in shock. In this day and age, technology is continuously evolving and changing every kind of field. In today’s era, biotechnology has been playing a massive role in healthcare, especially in the pharmaceutical industry. Biotechnology is when scientists use biological processes for industrial purposes. One example of biotechnology is genetic engineering in which scientists can alter an organism’s DNA. Another big example of biotechnology is medical biotechnology in which scientists and researchers develop pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines. Vaccines contain the weakened version of a virus and your body will fight the virus. Your body will essentially produce antibodies which will help destroy the virus in your body. Because it is a weak virus, your body will immediately fight it and will save the antibodies so that you won’t get the disease again. One question still rises - what is the history of vaccines?

The history of vaccines dates back to as far as 1000 C.E. Smallpox was the first disease where people tried many different techniques to try to prevent themselves from getting the disease. One method worked in which people in India and China used smallpox inoculation which essentially is where they would take the scabs of people who survived smallpox, blend it up, and then blow it through people’s nostrils (not the most sanitary technique). Although this is the underlying basis of a vaccine, it wasn’t acknowledged since the founding of this method wasn’t written.

The first vaccine ever created was made by a man named Edward Jenner. After he noticed that milkmaids (young girls who used to milk cows) who had the cowpox infection seemed to help prevent them from getting smallpox. He decided to inoculate a nine-year-old boy by collecting samples of the milkmaid’s cowpox scab and saw that he never got the smallpox virus. He then went on to create a research paper called, “On the Origin of the Vaccine Inoculation” and published his findings. He talked about how this sort of prevention could help annihilate the smallpox disease for good - which it did. Louis Pasteur, known as the “Father of Immunology,” also made a huge discovery that overall helped the evolution of vaccines. He found that diseases emerge from microorganisms and found that you could prevent someone from getting a disease by using the weakened version of the microorganism. He first used the disease cholera at first, but then found that this could work for any kind of disease.

Over time, scientists and medical researchers have found vaccines for various diseases and even eradicated a few deadly ones. For example, due to vaccines we no longer have the diseases, polio, smallpox and rinderpest. With the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine, many companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer have tremendously grown and many people who once didn’t believe in vaccines, now believe. The revolution of vaccines has exponentially changed the health of many human beings and will continue to help humanity.


Author: Srushti Nerkar

Srushti is a junior who is passionate about biology research in forensics. In her free time, she loves to watch Star Wars movies and find new DIY crafts to do.



  1. A brief history of vaccination. (2020, January 8). Immunisation Advisory Centre. https://www.immune.org.nz/vaccines/vaccine-development/brief-history-vaccination

  2. History of Smallpox | Smallpox | CDC. (2021). CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/smallpox/history/history.html

  3. Louis Pasteur. (2021, March 30). Science History Institute. https://www.sciencehistory.org/historical-profile/louis-pasteur

  4. Smallpox. (2019, November 1). World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/health-topics/smallpox#tab=tab_1

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