With the impending availability of a potential COVID-19 vaccine appearing on the horizon, I thought it might be a good time to even consider the origin of the vaccine. The very first vaccine was the result of studies done in the late 1700’s by Edward Jenner in England.
It was noticed that milkmaids never succumbed to the scourge of smallpox, and Jenner deduced that it might be as a result of their exposure to the similar appearing cowpox. He thought that if he could artificially give cowpox to healthy humans, then they would be safe from smallpox. Famously, he scraped pus from cowpox lesions and introduced that into incisions he made into healthy humans. Amazingly, the experiment worked, and this was published in 1798. Jenner coined the word vaccination from the Latin word for cow–vacca.
Today we face a new challenge of trying to expedite the development of a vaccine to what has become a world pandemic. While I am not urging abandoning scientific principles, it may be necessary to have some of Jenner’s pioneering spirit to stem the tide of this virulent scourge. At all times, individual patient safety is the priority; however, at this time we are faced with also evaluating overall population safety as well.