Who Deserves Credit for the First Vaccine?

Worst Pandemics in History reports that “25 million died from Bubonic Plague in 541-542 AD, and 75-200 million died from the Black Death in 1346-1353.” … The next huge death toll from a pandemic equal to the first two was Influenza in 1918 killing “20 – 50 million people.”

Because of these earlier pandemics, eventually, the first successful vaccines were created, and as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread around the world, a global race is on to create a vaccine to protect us from this one, too.

While Edward Jenner, an English physician, developed the first successful smallpox vaccine in 1796, did you know that he wasn’t the first one to inoculate for a viral disease?

The history of vaccinations started centuries before Jenner was born.

“Several accounts from the 1500s describe smallpox inoculation as practiced in China and India (one is referred to in volume 6 of Joseph Needham’s Science and Civilisation in China). Glynn and Glynn, in The Life and Death of Smallpox, note that in the late 1600s Emperor K’ang Hsi, who had survived smallpox as a child, had his children inoculated. That method involved grinding up smallpox scabs and blowing the matter into nostril. Inoculation may also have been practiced by scratching matter from a smallpox sore into the skin. It is difficult to pinpoint when the practice began, as some sources claim dates as early as 200 BCE.” — History of Vaccines.org

However, Britannica.com tells us “China has one of the world’s oldest medical systems. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal remedies date back at least 2,200 years, although the earliest known written record of Chinese medicine is the Huangdi neijing (The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic) from the 3rd century bce.”

“Newly discovered documents reveal that 2,200 years ago, Qin Shi Huangdi, China’s first emperor, put out an executive order to search for a potion that would give him eternal live.” — Live Science.com

Is it possible that the first emperor of China’s search for immorality might have also led to those alleged early inoculation attempts as early as 200 BCE? After all, the same desperate search by Huangdi’s alchemists accidently led to the discovery of gunpowder.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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