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Weir vaccination and lancet, cased, London, England, 1865-1875

Invented by Graham Weir, a doctor, sometime before 1866, this vaccination lancet was used for giving smallpox vaccines by scarification. This was a technique that broke the skin to introduce cowpox lymph material into the body. Cowpox is a milder form of smallpox and an attack of the former gives immunity to the latter. However, vaccination does not give life-long immunity. The four small blades were used to scratch the skin lightly in a cross-hatch pattern. The sharp pointed blade was used to collect the lymph material from a pustule of a person already vaccinated with cowpox. The blade was also used to apply the lymph material to cuts made in the skin of another person. The lancet with the tortoiseshell case would have been used in the same way.

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Glossary: vaccination set

No description.

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: cowpox

Viral infection of cows' udders, transmitted to humans by direct contact, causing very mild symptoms similar to smallpox.

Glossary: immunity

The condition of being immune, the protection against infectious disease conferred either by the immune response generated by immunisation or previous infection or by other nonimmunologic factors.

Glossary: lymph

Clear, slightly yellowish fluid derived from the blood and similar in composition to plasma. Lymph conveys white blood cells and some nutrients to the tissues.

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.

Glossary: scarification

The process of making a series of cuts or scratches in the skin to allow a substance to enter the body.

Glossary: pustule

A small inflammation of the skin, containing pus.