Resource of the week: Anniversary of the first vaccination - An injection of hope

24th May 2013 at 01:00
Discover how a pioneer of vaccination has saved millions of lives

Imagine a world where what we now consider to be a minor infection or a routine operation becomes a life-threatening event; flu outbreaks that are so deadly that they would previously have belonged to the realm of science fiction.

Doctors and scientists have warned that this could be reality in as little as 20 years' time if antibiotics simply stop working. The World Health Organisation has cautioned that within two decades "many common infections will no longer have a cure and, once again, could kill unabated".

Measles has already made a comeback in the UK. The death of a 25-year-old man in South Wales may have been caused by the disease, and more than 1,000 cases have been identified so far in an outbreak in the region. Some have blamed the fact that parents did not give their children the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine because of scares over alleged links to autism. Measles had been all but eliminated by the late 1990s, but it is now thought that 2 million children aged 10-16 could be at risk if the South Wales outbreak spreads.

So, it is timely to mark in your classroom the 217th anniversary of Englishman Edward Jenner's first vaccination.

A doctor and pioneer of immunology, Jenner (pictured, inset) carried out a now famous experiment on eight-year-old James Phipps in 1796. He injected the boy with a small dose of cowpox to test his theory that this would make the boy immune to smallpox, one of the most contagious and deadly diseases of the time. He then tried it out on his own 11-month-old son. When his findings were published in 1798, he coined the word "vaccine", from the Latin vacca for "cow".

Since Jenner's discovery, millions of lives have been saved around the world as further vaccines have been developed.

To explore the issue of vaccination, the impact of the MMR scandal and the role of medical science, TESConnect user toonfan has created an illustrated PowerPoint slide.

Ask your students to identify what a vaccine is and to explain how it can prevent a future bout of a disease. Then encourage them to debate the advantages and disadvantages. You could also ask your class to prepare a presentation for younger students to help allay their fears about vaccination.

You can find the resource at bit.lyvaccinePP.

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