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Ivory vaccination points, Europe, 1801-1900

Ivory points were used to give smallpox vaccinations by rubbing, scratching or inserting the vaccine into the skin, using a lancet. These points were covered with calf lymph which carried the disease cowpox, a milder form of smallpox. An attack gives immunity to smallpox. Ivory was a useful material as the points could be used to transport vaccines over long distances. The points are just 24 mm long.

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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: vaccination point

No description.

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: vaccine

A substance given to humans or animals to improve immunity from disease. A vaccine can sometimes contain a small amount of bacteria that is designed to stimulate the body's reaction to that particular disease. The first vaccine was developed in 1796 by Edward Jenner to prevent smallpox.