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Maybe you shouldn’t vaccinate your kids—maybe equinate them instead

Thursday October 12, 2017. 10:18 PM , from Ars Technica
Enlarge / Pox. (credit: CDC)
Smallpox is the first and only human disease we have ever successfully eradicated—thanks to the very first vaccine ever developed. It’s quite the medical triumph. The very word “vaccine,” which we use to describe all other forms of protective inoculations, is an homage to the smallpox vaccine.
Yet, we don’t know what the vaccine is, exactly. For decades, researchers have mulled its sordid and muddled origins. Now, a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine finally offers a genetic glimpse of its true identity—and it’s not what you might expect.
Most people know the general tale of the vaccine’s origin, which started with key observations: smallpox survivors obtained immunity; infection through a scratch spurred a milder sickness; and milkmaids, who sometimes developed pustules on their hands, seemed conspicuously above the fray. These observations fortuitously fused in the mind of Edward Jenner, who, in 1798, reported protecting a brave eight-year-old named James Phipps from smallpox with an inoculation from the lesioned hand of a cowpox-infected milkmaid, Sarah Nelmes. The inoculation was dubbed a vaccine, a term that stems from the Latin word vacca, for cow.
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