Edward Jenner saved millions of lives, not by finding a cure for a disease but by stopping people from catching it: he created the first vaccine. Now, thanks to Jenner, no one catches smallpox, a horrible, deadly disease. Today, vaccines are used to stop the spread of equally awful diseases, saving lives without us even knowing it.

Answers to quiz:


Edward Jenner first vaccinated against smallpox with a different but similar disease.



Louis Pasteur used his vaccine for rabies to save a boy's life. The vaccination used a rabies virus which had been treated to make it inactive.



Almroth Wright created a vaccine for typhoid by heating the virus to make it safe.



Ali Maow Maalin was the last person to catch smallpox.



The last case of polio was reported in the UK



The first combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine was used in the UK



Girls started to receive a vaccination to protect them from the virus which causes cervical cancer.



Successful results showed mice can be vaccinated against breast cancer. Human clinical trials could begin in the next few years.



Curriculum Links

New disease



  • the effects of recreational drugs (including substance misuse) on behaviour, health and life processes
  • Challenges for Britain, Europe and the wider world 1901 to the present day.

Scottish Curriculum Links:



SCN 3-12a

Biological systems - Body systems and cells

I have explored the structure and function of organs and organ systems and can relate this to the basic biological processes required to sustain life.


SCN 3-12b

I have explored the role of technology in monitoring health and improving the quality of life.


SCN 3-13c

I have explored how the body defends itself against disease and can describe how vaccines can provide protection.


SCN 4-13c

I can debate the moral and ethical issues associated with some controversial biological procedures.


SCN 4-20a

Topical Science

I have researched new developments in science and can explain how their current or future applications might impact on modern life.


SCN 4-20b

Topical Science

Having selected scientific themes of topical interest, I can critically analyse the issues, and use relevant information to develop an informed argument.

Literacy and English

LIT 3-14a / LIT 4-14a

Reading - Finding and using information


LIT 3-16a

Reading - Understanding, analysing and evaluating

To show my understanding across different areas of learning, I can:

• identify and consider the purpose, main concerns or concepts and use supporting detail

• make inferences from key statements

• identify and discuss similarities and differences between different types of text.


LIT 4-16a

Reading - Understanding, analysing and evaluating

To show my understanding across different areas of learning, I can:

• clearly state the purpose, main concerns, concept or arguments and use supporting detail

• make inferences from key statements and state these accurately in my own words

• compare and contrast different types of text

New diseases

Vaccines have been very successful in helping us protect ourselves from bacterial and viral infections. In industrialised countries such as the UK, we are almost free of some of the world's worst diseases and with enough money and willpower it may be possible to eradicate these diseases entirely.

CigarettesHowever, the countries which are free from these killers are now suffering from "diseases" caused by lifestyle, such as obesity, smoking, and drug use. Is it possible to vaccinate against these? Drugs are similar to viruses and bacteria because they are strange objects in the body. To vaccinate against them you just need make sure the body knows to attack these invaders - this will stop the drugs from having any effect on the body.

Can we vaccinate against drug use?

Dr Thomas Kosten developed a vaccine that trained the body to attack cocaine. These vaccines alert the body to the cocaine molecules and the body sends antibodies to attach to them.  The resulting cocaine molecules are too big to reach the brain. Addicts who wanted to quit found it easier to stay drug-free since there was no point in taking a drug that had no effect. Now scientists are working on a vaccination against nicotine which would help smokers stay away from cigarettes once they have quit.


How can vaccines help fight cancer, or obesity?

New vaccinations are going beyond helping the body fight invaders. Vaccinations against skin cancer train the body's immune system to fight the skin cancer cells. Research into helping the body attack its own hormones, in particular the ones which control appetite, may provide a cure for obesity.

It has been 200 years since Edward Jenner's discovery and we are now beginning to use vaccinations in a way he could not have imagined.

Key fact: The discovery made by Edward Jenner over 200 years ago is helping us to fight diseases today like cancer, obesity, and drug addiction.



When did the various discoveries relating to vaccination occur?

Take the online quiz here,

or download the pdf worksheet.