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Vaccination lancet, London, England, 1869-1900

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The lancet would have been dipped in lymph material from a smallpox pustule. Pustules are skin blisters filled with pus that appear approximately five to eight days after vaccination. The lancet blade would then be used to vaccinate another person. This type of arm-to-arm vaccination was made illegal in 1898, as it could transmit other diseases such as syphilis. Specially prepared animal lymph was used instead. Vaccination did not give life-long immunity and had to be repeated. Lancets were also used to transport vaccines over short distances, although the vaccine could deteriorate so it was best to use them directly.

Object number:

A136655

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Glossary:

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: 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: lancets

A surgical instrument of various forms, commonly sharp-pointed and two-edged. The lancet is used in venesection (the act of opening a vein for bloodletting), and in opening abscesses.

Glossary: syphilis

A sexually transmitted infection resulting in the formation of lesions throughout the body.

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: pustule

A small inflammation of the skin, containing pus.