Historical story

We owe the vaccine where we owe Covid-19

Today we will not examine humanity's faith in a vaccine (coronavirus or whatever), but the facts. Like for example, that to be considered successful, it must have at least 50% effectiveness in clinical trials. That is, if 100 people do it and 50 don't get sick, that's fine. The ideal percentage is from 75% and above. The larger the sample, the clearer the picture becomes. This has been the reality since the first vaccine in history which is our current topic.

To begin with, we will clarify something - to avoid possible misunderstandings. A vaccine is defined as a biological preparation containing a dead or inactivated pathogenic agent responsible for a disease. The purpose of vaccination is to activate the defense system of our body, against the pathogenic microorganism, so that it "recognizes" it as foreign, produces antibodies and destroys it. It does not eliminate every possibility of infection, but it ensures that we will pass it more gently.

It also creates 'memory', so that in future infection it is easier to identify - and destroy. It is clear that this is a medical intervention and as such may have side effects. Also, there are dozens of studies that have been done that prove that vaccines are not related to autism.

But let's see, which 'extraordinary man' (as he is referred to in the literature) discovered the vaccine.

By 429 BC, when there was no knowledge of antibodies, doctors in Ancient Greece had begun to understand that infection with certain viruses could later prevent re-infection. Thucydides had recorded that the people who had overcome the smallpox epidemic in Athens were safe from its reappearance.

The oldest human virus ever decoded, one of the deadliest diseases humanity has faced in its history - smallpox killed 3 out of 10 patients - was the target of the first vaccine. No one has been able to find until today, where it came from. Once in a while, he 'stumbled' upon the discovery of new lands and migration.

The first recorded reference to the word 'vaccine' was as far back as 1549. Based on research, the term used was inoculation since the process referred to immunization. Followed by variolation (from variola - in Latin the smallpox, thanks to the various i.e. the spots/rashes).

All this was discovered by the director of the research center bearing his last name, biochemist, historian, sinologist Joseph Needham, when in 1948 he was looking for information and facts about China's science and technology. He had previously secured the OK from Cambridge University to publish the related book - which eventually became seven volumes.

Yes, you understood correctly that the Chinese made the primitive form of vaccine (don't swear) which originally had a preventive reason. They had discovered that people who were exposed to chicken pox tissue were less likely to contract the disease. And if they were sick, they would pass the disease mildly.

In his reports the researcher had written that 'an extraordinary man' had found a vaccine that was made from 1567 to 1572 and was based on alchemical principles. He had not been able to learn the purpose it served, because no one agreed to share the knowledge with a foreigner. Until in the second half of the 17th century, the longest-lived emperor in Chinese history, Kangxi, revealed that he had vaccinated his entire family, army, and anyone else who had contracted smallpox. The first techniques were revealed in the same text. They were based on infectious disease material. One "passed" the poop through the child's nose, after it had previously turned into powder. The other took liquid from the blister and placed it on the nose with cotton.

The British scientist, who died in March 1995 at the age of 95, had also noted an older technique, said to have been created by Buddhist or Taoist monks (or a nun) in 1000 AD. It was a mixture of medicine, technique, magic and incantation, that is, from the beginning to the end there was a taboo and therefore it was not recorded. Needham concluded that he had not found sufficient evidence to prove that this was a widely accepted tradition.

Along with the Chinese, the Indians also developed vaccination tactics. Their first recorded method involved a sharp iron needle pricking repeatedly and in a circular motion, pustules of the skin—of a person who had smallpox—usually on the upper arm. This practice was known in Bengal and Bangladesh.

The Chinese discoveries were used until the 18th century in Asian countries, before passing to Africa, Europe and the Americas (Australia was untouched by smallpox). The one credited with 'introducing' the vaccine to the Western world was Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, aristocrat, poet, author and wife of the English Ambassador to Constantinople - where the practice had arrived. In 1717, while she had 'lost' her brother to smallpox and had become ill herself (her face was disfigured) she learned about the method used by the Turks.

Determined to save her 6-year-old son, she sought out the doctors. Edward became 'the first Englishman to undergo the operation', in March 1718.

She had written to a friend that 'there are some old women here, who have made it a business to perform the operation, every autumn when the heat subsides. They show you a shell full of smallpox material and ask you which vein will best receive it. Thousands have undergone the procedure. Noone has died '. On her return to London, she popularized the procedure, only to encounter resistance from the established medical establishment, who characterized the method as 'folk oriental'.

In April 1721, when her daughter fell ill, she called to England the one who saved her son, for the first execution of the practice in the country. He had convinced the Princess of Wales to test the treatment. She ordered seven prisoners of Newgate Prison who were under sentence of death to be subjected to it. All seven survived and were released, for their contribution to the common good. Along the way it turned out that the method was not always safe. It was estimated that it 'cost' the life of 2 to 3% of the patients who resorted to it.

The British doctor and scientist, Edward Jenner, who went down in history as the 'father of immunology', as his discovery saved more lives than any other related one that had preceded it, took over. In the area where he lived (Berkeley) there was an outbreak of vaccinia, a form of smallpox that mainly affects cattle. He had noticed that the people who milked the cows got sick from it, but not from smallpox.

He brought the finding (that vaccinia confers immunity to smallpox) to the attention of the medical community. She did not give him the slightest importance, characterizing it as a 'coincidence'. At the time, Jenner was a medical student. When he got his degree he made fighting the disease his life's goal. He dedicated himself to experiments that would help him convince even the most skeptical. Through them he found that vaccinia could be transmitted between humans, through vaccination. In the second year, he realized that in this way he would defeat smallpox. He had to find volunteers to put into practice what had been in his mind until then. You understand that there was a great risk that he would be convicted as a murderer.

The experiment on the gardener's son

The first was a young Sarah Nelmes who developed symptoms of vaccinia, milking a cow - incidentally named Blossom. After taking fluid from the cockroach (do you want to call it ulceration?), he transferred it to his gardener's 8-year-old son, with his father's consent. Little James contracted mild vaccinia. Two months later he had fully recovered. The second test was done on Jenner's 11-month-old son. This was also successful and from then on he was not looking for volunteers, but they were looking for him. In 1797 he submitted the results of the research to the Royal Society. He rejected them. He returned a year later, when the publication entitled 'Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of Smallpox' was approved. In it he referred to the process as vaccination, after the name of the virus variolae vaccinae and became the first to use the term virus.

The newspapers mocked him, the church attacked him (because vaccination was against God's will - note, his father was a minister), yet his method was used in the army and navy before it spread to the rest of Europe and the US, where the George Washington ordered the compulsory vaccination of the troops in 1777. Jenner's method evolved in the years that followed, as did the 'tools' of medicine until after 200 years the virus was 'defeated'.

In July 1885 the French chemist and microbiologist, Louis Pasteur offered the world the anti-rabies vaccine. He had already become 'the father of microbiology', purely by chance. As he was researching the reason why beet juice stored in jars turned sour, he discovered that the fermentation did not happen... by itself, but thanks to a microbe (see yeast). This was the day he decided to devote his life to the study of microbes, to find that they were responsible for many human diseases - which he first proved by identifying the anthrax bacterium as the cause of anthrax.

He published the findings, informed that it is transmitted by skin, breath and water, but did not know how to deal with it. He had just found the next task. It was solved half a century later by Alexander Fleming, discovering the antibiotic called 'penicillin'. He had noticed that the green mold produced a substance that 'nullified' the activity of some microbes.

Back to Pasteur, he was the first to experiment with bacterial cultures, which he did in his laboratory - and caused the death of birds. One of them she left unused while she was on vacation. He used it upon his return, without causing a problem to the health of the chickens that 'received' it. When he tried another culture on them, he noticed that again they did not show the slightest symptom. By chance he had discovered that organisms do not become infected with diseases if they are inoculated with weakened cultures of the microbes that cause them.

He tested the theory on other animals as well as on other microbes. Among other things, he saved the silk industry of France (finding the reason why the silkworms were sick). He introduced pasteurization as a way to prevent dangerous microorganisms from passing from animal milk to humans, while he was the one who isolated the tuberculosis bacillus. As for the rabies vaccine, it was the first operation he performed on a human when the father of a little boy asked him to save it. He saved it. Through global fundraising he found the resources to create the Institut Pasteur, in Paris, which dealt with rabies from its first day of operation (1888) before moving on to other diseases.

Then it started to acquire branches all over the world - it arrived in Greece in 1920, when the whole planet started working on vaccines for all diseases (eg whooping cough, tuberculosis, tetanus, etc.). In the 1950s, researchers focused on polio, which was responsible for the paralysis and death of millions of children over a 20-year period. When it first appeared (1905) a Swedish doctor warned that it was a contagious disease. The first effective vaccine appeared in 1952. The disease was 'defeated' in 1994 in America and in 2002 in Europe.

In 1963, this was also presented for measles (it had been around since 1675 when it hit Boston), as a result of years of research by a group led by John F. Enders (of Harvard), who has since been widely regarded as the 'father of modern vaccination' ' -he was also awarded a Nobel. An associate named Thomas Peebles collected blood from sick students at a private school outside Boston to attempt to isolate the virus. He succeeded, and then his team started working on the vaccine, which from being an 'enemy' had become the only way.