Vaccines and the history behind their discovery

Hosted by

The smallpox vaccine diluent in a syringe along side a vial of Dryvax® dried smallpox vaccine. Vaccinia (smallpox) vaccine, derived from calf lymph, and currently licensed in the United States, is a lyophilized, live-virus preparation of infectious vaccinia virus. It does not contain smallpox (variola) virus. Photo by James Gathany/CDC (Wikicommons)

Infectious diseases have long shaped human history, from the 14th century Black Death and the 1918–19 influenza pandemic to today’s emergence of the COVID-19. As new vaccines are getting ready to be administered against this latest pandemic, what’s the long history behind their discovery? And why are they still hotly debated despite their many global public health successes in eradicating deadly diseases like smallpox and polio.



Andrea Brody