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Smallpox vaccine, Berne, Switzerland, 1980

The strain of virus used for this vaccine was grown and gathered from the skin of a sheep infected with smallpox. The vaccine was then administered through the skin by a scratch technique. This smallpox vaccine was created for the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) in London. Smallpox vaccination programmes led to the global eradication of the disease in 1979.

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    Glossary: vaccination

    The introduction of vaccine into the body for the purpose of inducing immunity. Coined originally to apply to the injection of smallpox vaccine, the term has come to mean any immunising procedure in which vaccine is injected.

    Glossary: scratch technique

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    Glossary: smallpox

    Smallpox is a infectious virus unique to humans. In the skin, this results in a characteristic rash, and fluid-filled blisters. During the 20th century, it is estimated that smallpox was responsible for 300–500 million deaths. After successful vaccination campaigns throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the World Health Organisation certified the eradication of smallpox in 1979. To this day, smallpox is the only human infectious disease to have been completely eradicated.

    Glossary: virus

    A tiny particle made up of DNA/RNA and a protein coat. Viruses infect animals, plants, and micro-organisms and cause many diseases, including the common cold, influenza, measles, chickenpox, AIDS, polio and rabies. Many viral diseases can be controlled by means of vaccines.

    Glossary: vaccine

    A substance given to humans or animals to improve immunity from disease. A vaccine can sometimes contain a small amount of bacteria that is designed to stimulate the body's reaction to that particular disease. The first vaccine was developed in 1796 by Edward Jenner to prevent smallpox.