Exploring the Science Behind Smallpox Vaccination and Its Impact on Public Health Today

  • May 05, 2023
  • By Vidyaprakash Lakshminarayan
  • 0 Comment

Smallpox has been a persistent threat to human health since recorded history began. It can cause blindness, scarring, and even death. The public's health has been dramatically harmed today, although Smallpox has been eradicated because of technological improvements in inoculation. The impact of Smallpox vaccination on public health cannot be overstated. It has led to eradicating the disease and saved countless lives.

This article aims to investigate the development of the Smallpox vaccine, the history of the disease, the scientific basis for it, and the influence it has had on public health. By reading about the milestones of both this disease and vaccination, readers can learn more about how vaccination has helped control and eliminate the infection, making it a key achievement in public health.

The History of Smallpox:

Smallpox is a severely infectious illness caused by the variola virus, which may spread through direct contact with an infected person. Smallpox-like lesions have been discovered on Egyptian mummies dating back to 1570 BC, indicating that this disease has existed for thousands of years. As a result of trade and colonisation, the disease had spread to every country in the world by the 18th century, posing a severe threat to the general populace's health.

World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that Smallpox killed between 300 million and 500 million people globally in the twentieth century. Because of the disease's severity and rapid spread, people worldwide took action to halt it, finally leading to vaccination campaigns that successfully eradicated the sickness. Regardless, the history of Smallpox emphasises the importance of public health policy in controlling and avoiding the spread of infectious disease transmission.


The Smallpox Vaccine:

In 1796, British physician Edward Jenner made a ground-breaking discovery that would forever change the direction of medical science. Jenner observed that milkmaids with cowpox did not also have Smallpox when he investigated the relationship between the two diseases. This led him to believe that cowpox provided protection against Smallpox. Jenner tested his theory by administering the cowpox vaccine to an eight-year-old kid and then exposing him to Smallpox. He was relieved when the youngster survived Smallpox, and the vaccination was developed.

Today's smallpox vaccine contains the vaccinia virus, which is closely linked to the virus that causes Smallpox but does not trigger the disease. The vaccinia virus is grown in calfskin or chick embryos and then purified to make the vaccine. The development and widespread use of the Smallpox vaccine have tremendously contributed to the abolition of the disease and continue to be critical for protecting public health.


The Science Behind the Smallpox Vaccine:

The vaccinia virus, which is given as part of the Smallpox vaccination, leads the body to replicate itself, producing antibodies that provide immunity to the Smallpox virus. Individuals who have already taken the vaccine do not need to be revaccinated unless they are at high risk of viral exposure. This vaccine provides long-term immunity against Smallpox.

The Smallpox vaccine can induce an immune response that lasts for years, if not a lifetime, protecting people from infection. The impact of Smallpox vaccination extends beyond the prevention of Smallpox, as the science behind the vaccine has led to the development of new vaccines for other diseases. The widespread use of the Smallpox vaccine has been critical in controlling and eliminating the disease. It currently serves a vital role in public health. The potential of the Smallpox vaccine to provide long-term protection emphasises the importance of vaccines in preventing the spread of infectious diseases.


The impact of Smallpox vaccination on Public Health:

The advent of the Smallpox vaccine and the associated worldwide vaccination campaign launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1967 had a tremendous impact on public health. Smallpox was eradicated in 1980 due to the program, and its success prompted vaccination campaigns against polio, measles, and tetanus. The impact of Smallpox vaccination can be seen in the significant decline in Smallpox cases worldwide, with the last known natural case occurring in 1977.

Scientific advances made possible by developing the Smallpox vaccine have enabled the development of other vaccinations. The vaccine's effectiveness, for example, has been utilised to produce vaccines against the human papillomavirus (HPV), the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and the Ebola virus. These immunisations are a big step forward in the fight against infectious diseases. They are based on the scientific principles of the Smallpox vaccine.



In a nutshell, the growth of research enabled by Smallpox vaccination has been critical to public health advancement. Immunisation was crucial to eradicating a deadly disease, prompting the creation of additional immunisations. The successful Smallpox vaccination initiatives served as a model for future endeavours. They made a substantial contribution to worldwide public health advancement.

The long-term impact of Smallpox vaccination is evident in the continued absence of Smallpox worldwide, demonstrating the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Funding for vaccine research and development must be maintained to halt and limit the spread of contagious illnesses. By utilising scientific information, we will be able to address both present and developing health challenges while also protecting vulnerable communities worldwide.