The history of vaccines and how they work : Planet Money We've only made vaccines for so many diseases. Let's look at the history. | Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.
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The Very First Vaccine

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The Very First Vaccine

The Very First Vaccine

The Very First Vaccine

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London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Library & Archives Service
The origin of the vaccine can be traced back to smallpox inoculation in Imperial China. This Chinese illustration, found in a 1913 textbook, shows the method.
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Library & Archives Service

A vaccine is just exposing yourself to a little bit of the bad thing that can kill you.

But when did we first get the idea to inject ourselves with something that can kill us, in order to save us?

On today's show we trace the 2000-year history of the very first vaccine. We go from Ancient Greece to Imperial China to Britain. And we learn how this led to an achievement we'd love to repeat again now with the coronavirus — completely eradicating a deadly disease.

Music: "Love Is Hard," "Seismic Encounters," and "Time Traveler's Checks"

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