• Reading Levels 3 - 5


How were vaccines invented?: In the 1700s, smallpox was the deadliest disease known to man. It had affected pharaohsAncient Egyptian kings, ravaged the Roman Empire and decimated native American populations. Nobody knew what caused the disease or how to stop it, but one English doctor was trying. Edward Jenner knew of a folk tale that milkmaids were immune to smallpox and believed there was some truth to the story. He noticed that milkmaids got blisters on their hands while milking cows with cowpox (a mild disease causing similar lesions to smallpox). Jenner wondered whether infecting someone with the mild disease could protect them against the lethalto cause death one. In 1796, he tested his theory on several people, injecting cowpox into their bloodstreams before doing the same with smallpox. None of his patients became unwell with the deadly illness. Edward Jenner had succeeded. He named the process after the Latin for cow, "vacca". What was the science behind it? Nearly 1,000 years before Jenner, physicians in China had noticed that the few people who survived the disease became immune to it. Knowing this, they ground up old smallpox blisters into a powder and used nose pipes to insert it. All of them had the right idea. When fighting an illness, the immune systemThe network of cells, organs and proteins that defend the body from infection. creates antibodiesProteins produced by the immune system to help stop intruders (germs, foreign bodies) from harming the body. targeted at specific germs related to that illness. Vaccines work by training the immune system to create antibodies in the same way, but use weakened or killed forms of germs developed in laboratories. The process is like going to a self-defence class: the body's natural defence system builds the right cells to fight the disease without being exposed to the real thing. How effective is vaccination? Vaccination has probably saved millions of lives. In 1853, all infants in the UK had to have the smallpox vaccine. Just over 100 years later, in 1980, the vaccine had been so effective that the World Health Organisation announced the complete global eradicationThe complete destruction of something. of the disease. Today, vaccines are used around the world to immunise people against all sorts of diseases. Most Western countries have succeeded in eradicating measles, a potentially dangerous disease that once affected nearly every child on the planet. Are there side effects? Sometimes, but they are usually weak. For example, somebody may experience mild symptoms after the flu jab, like a headache or muscle pain. This is normal and simply means that the immune system is working. Most people agree that the side effects are worth tolerating to avoid the more dangerous illness. Is vaccination compulsory? Not in the UK, although - as in most countries - there is a schedule of vaccinations advised for young children. Nearly everyone can be vaccinated, but there are a few who cannot have certain vaccines because they have immune disordersA condition where the immune system doesn’t work properly, meaning vaccines can be dangerous. or allergies. In populations where most people have been vaccinated, even those who do not have antibody protection are safe. This is known as 'herd immunity'. Unfortunately, this technique has become less effective in recent years because there is a growing number of people avoiding vaccination due to concerns about side effects. The UK government is now considering making vaccines compulsory once again. What's the future of vaccination? Eradicating smallpox remains one of the greatest public health achievements in history. Scientists are working constantly to achieve even more success by improving vaccines and creating new ones. New technology means that vaccines could be administered using nasal spray, inhalers, and patches instead of needles. There are plans to use vaccination to target non-infectious conditions, such as allergies, and the process could even be used to treat cancerous lumps.KeywordsPharaohs - Ancient Egyptian kings

Continue Reading

The Day is an independent, online, subscription-based news publication for schools, focusing on the big global issues beneath the headlines. Our dedicated newsroom writes news, features, polls, quizzes, translations… activities to bring the wider world into the classroom. Through the news we help children and teachers develop the thinking, speaking and writing skills to build a better world. Our stories are a proven cross-curricular resource published at five different reading levels for ages 5 to 19. The Day has a loyal and growing membership in over 70 countries and its effectiveness is supported by case studies and teacher endorsements.

Start your free trial Already have an account? Log in / register