The vaccine revolution

From Pathway magazine, the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia, Winter 2008:
Being a baby one hundred years ago was a pretty dicey affair. Up to one in three would not live to see their first birthday, instead falling victim to any one of a long list of diseases including smallpox, diphtheria, measles, tetanus and whooping cough. Even if they did successfully run the gauntlet of these killers, they still had a lifetime of fighting ahead of them. Something as simple as a scratch could lead to an untreatable and possibly fatal infection.
All that changed in 1796. A rural English doctor called Edward Jenner discovered that inoculating a person with material from a cowpox lesion protected them against subsequent smallpox infection, and the first vaccine was born.
Since then, widespread immunisation has lead to the complete eradication of smallpox and, in the developed world, almost relegated infectious diseases such as polio, diphtheria, tetanus and measles to the pages of medical history. Read more (pdf file, page 22).

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