a story as long as it is eventful

200 vaccines against Covid-19 in development – This is unprecedented in the history of vaccines. And yet this is almost as old as the history of civilizations.

Already in ancient times, we realized that after suffering an infectious disease, we were protected from it. Later, in the Middle Ages, it was the Chinese who improvised a vaccine against smallpox, inoculating smallpox extracted from a mildly ill subject. But this technique, the “variolation”, was not without risks, with 2% of deaths.

The real vaccine was born thanks to an Englishman, Edward Jenner, who discovered in 1796 that the vaccinated, “cow pox” (hence the name “vaccine”) immunizes humans against smallpox. This vaccine spread rapidly in Europe, to the point that even Napoleon, then First Consul, adopted it and asked the clergy to be vaccinated to set an example.

In France, these are the discoveries of Louis Pasteur, who from the 1870s intuited the existence of microbes, which cause the acceleration of vaccination. He manages to manufacture an attenuated virus. You will use it first on animals, then on a child bitten by a mad dog in 1885. This child will never develop the disease. 150 years later, this same technique is used.

Vaccines are as old as vaccines

Religious reasons, superstitions, fear or violation of freedoms : The “antivax” movements appeared in 1853 with the obligation to vaccinate children against smallpox in England. In France, Pasteur has even been accused of making a profit by manufacturing artificial rage.

Even today, fear of conspiracy slows down vaccination campaigns. In Pakistan or Afghanistan, the fake vaccination campaign organized by the CIA to track down Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in 2011 has made its mark. Ultra-conservative clergymen do not hesitate to blow out these embers and spread the rumor that the polio vaccine would render you infertile. As a result, the number of polio cases is increasing.

It is for this reason that the World Health Organization classified in 2019 Vaccine reluctance among the top ten threats to global health.

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>> Special issue Lenglet-Co: coronavirus crisis, a weekly podcast presented by François Lenglet and Catherine Mangin, which gives you the keys to understand everything about the evolutions and revolutions caused by the coronavirus crisis in France, Europe and the world.

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