A century-old vial linked to a 1902 smallpox vaccine found in a doctor’s medical collection may illuminate the murky origins of the modern vaccine.
The study in the New England Journal of Medicine undercuts widespread belief that Edward Jenner, “the father of vaccination,” had, in 1796, built the first-ever vaccine with cowpox. Jenner theorized that the milder cowpox virus immunized against dreaded, disfiguring smallpox. But the secret to his potion may more likely have been the horsepox virus, according to the study.
The revelation came when the study’s author, José Esparza, found the crucial vial in his personal collection of vaccine containers.