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November 16, 1964

Smallpox Vaccination vs Inoculation

JAMA. 1964;190(7):689-690. doi:10.1001/jama.1964.03070200125036

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To the Editor:—  In the Aug 17 issue of The Journal (189:588, 1964) there appears a letter telling of smallpox "vaccination" in Fairfield in 1782. What it describes, though, is not vaccination but inoculation. It might be well to emphasize the differences between the two.Vaccination, introduced by Jenner in 1798, was based upon the use of a mild, attenuated virus (cowpox virus) which produced a local infection at the site of inoculation yet led to a high level of immunity to smallpox. This procedure was called "vaccination" because the material used came from cows (Latin vacca, cow).Inoculation, however, is what was performed in 1782. Smallpox inoculation, or variolation, as it was often called, was carried out by inoculating the smallpox virus itself into the skin. This procedure, or variations of it, had been practiced since ancient times in Asia and perhaps in Africa, but was not introduced

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