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Silver prize medal for vaccination work, France, 1870-1871

Dr Ricard of Lyons, a French doctor, received this gilded silver medal for his vaccination work in 1871. This shows the importance attached to vaccination programmes. In France, smallpox vaccination was not compulsory until 1902 – nearly fifty years after Britain. The engraving shows a woman holding the new French Republican Constitution establishing the Third Republic of France. The symbols at her feet represent French industry and trade. The medal is engraved with the words “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, the slogan of the French Revolution in 1789, which established the First Republic.

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Glossary: vaccination

The introduction of vaccine into the body for the purpose of inducing immunity. Coined originally to apply to the injection of smallpox vaccine, the term has come to mean any immunising procedure in which vaccine is injected.

Glossary: medal

Small pieces of metal, usually gold, silver, or bronze, bearing a relief design on one or both sides and having a commemorative purpose; not used as a medium of exchange. Medals may also be created to commemorate individuals or events or even as works of artistic expression in their own right.

Glossary: smallpox

Smallpox is an infectious virus unique to humans. It results in a characteristic skin rash and fluid-filled blisters. After successful vaccination campaigns throughout the 1800s and 1900s, the World Health Organisation certified the eradication of smallpox in 1979. Smallpox is the only human infectious disease to have been completely wiped out.