George Conway

Meet the Texas Doctor Developing a “People’s Vaccine” to Help Inoculate Billions Around the World

We look at the state of the pandemic and vaccine rollout in the United States and around the world with Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Hotez is part of a team at Baylor University that is working with a private Indian company to develop a low-cost COVID-19 vaccine. The task of developing a simple vaccine is “daunting,” Dr. Hotez says. “We’re talking about 5 billion doses of vaccine. And the question is: Where do you get 5 billion doses of vaccine?” he says. “We’re trying to come through with something that uses the same old-school technology as the recombinant hepatitis B vaccine that’s been around for four decades.”

Janet adds: Be a part of the solution and not the problem. Vaccines stop the spread of diseases that hurt, harm, and kill. If you do not vaccinate yourself, you spread disease and hurt, harm, and kill. Protect your loved ones, your friends, neighbors, communities, countries, society. Diseases hurt our economy. COVID interferes with other medical procedures and results in related deaths, preventable if you cooperate, get your vaccinations, wear a mask, social distance. Poor people across this planet need vaccines to stop the spread of not only COVID but future pandemics that threaten to eliminate human life from the Earth. Eventually without cures, without vaccinating we’ll permit these viruses to evolve and get deadlier and deadlier.

We were lucky this time, but without vaccines, COVID keeps evolving, and maybe later this year or in the near future it will be so deadly we’ll drop like flies upon contact. Do not allow politics to politicize diseases and kill you and your loved ones. Love enough to do this for others, if not for yourself. Follow science, not crazy conspiracy theories that end up killing millions. As of this writing, three million people have died due to COVID and there are millions more dead due to COVID-related conditions that kept people from getting their needs met, so they too perished.  

When Was The First Vaccine Created?

A young boy receiving vaccination. Image credit: Volodymyr Maksymchuk/
A young boy receiving vaccination. Image credit: Volodymyr Maksymchuk/
  • Smallpox is caused by the Variola virus, which dates back to prehistoric times
  • other diseases traveled around the world before effective vaccines were created.
  • Edward Jenner was born in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, England, in 1749.
  • the World Health Assembly announced that smallpox had been eradicated from the world.

With the race to find a COVID-19 in full swing, now is a good time to look back on history to learn about how the very first vaccines were created. To understand the timeline, we will start with one of the first natural diseases known to humans, smallpox, called the “scourge of mankind.”

Smallpox is caused by the Variola virus, which dates back to prehistoric times. The earliest evidence of smallpox-like skin lesions was found on Egyptian mummies from 1570 to 1085 BC. Other indications of the disease were found in ancient Asian cultures, from around 1122 BC. It was later found in Europe, the West Indies, Africa, and the New World.

Early Inoculations

There are historic records from India and China that describe early smallpox treatments. The people used a method that began with grinding up smallpox scabs. This ground up matter was then blown into healthy people’s nostrils. Another technique was to scratch a smallpox sore, and then scratch it into a healthy person’s skin. Called “variolation,” it was also practiced in Turkey, Africa, the Americas, and Europe. In Turkey, practitioners would expose people to a less serious form of smallpox by making incisions into healthy people’s skin. They would then inoculate it with pus from smallpox sores. Some researchers believe these practices were employed as far back as 200 BCE.

Aside from smallpox, other diseases traveled around the world before effective vaccines were created. These include whooping cough, yellow fever, typhoid, and measles. Different treatments were attempted, but none showed success until the late 18th century.

Edward Jenner

Edward Jenner. Oil painting.

Edward Jenner was born in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, England, in 1749. With a strong interest in science, he was apprenticed to an area doctor when he was just 13. At age 21, Jenner moved to London to continue his studies at St. George’s Hospital with John Hunter, a famous surgeon and experimental scientist.

Jenner carried out many experiments on human blood, and was later elected a fellow of the Royal Society. Then in 1773, he returned to Berkeley to become a practicing doctor.

Cowpox And Smallpox

Dr Jenner performing his first vaccination on James Phipps, a boy of age 8. 14 May 1796

Jenner was familiar with cowpox, an uncommon and mild infection seen in cattle. Cowpox can spread to humans who are in contact with sores seen on cows. Jenner observed that local dairy workers would get pustules on their hands, and the infection could spread to other parts of their bodies. He hypothesized that being infected with cowpox could protect people from more serious smallpox infections. On May 14, 1796, Jenner collected matter from a cowpox sore located on a milkmaid’s hand. He then inoculated an eight-year old boy, James Phipps, with the matter. Phipps felt somewhat ill for a few days, and recovered fully. Though Jenner did not know it, the cow pox virus is part of the same virus family as smallpox, which is called Orthopox.

James Gillray’s 1802 caricature of Jenner vaccinating patients who feared it would make them sprout cowlike appendages.

Jenner asserted that “cow-pox protects the human constitution from the infection of smallpox.” His work created the main foundation for modern vaccinology.  Jenner gained accolades for his accomplishment, with honors from Harvard, Cambridge, and Oxford Universities.

In May of 1980, the World Health Assembly announced that smallpox had been eradicated from the world. They then recommended that all countries stop vaccinating for the disease. “The world and all its people have won freedom from smallpox,” they stated. According to the CDC, the vaccine is no longer needed. Should things change, the U.S. government has stockpiled smallpox vaccine in case an outbreak ever occurs.

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