Simon Walker on the History of Inoculation

Edward Jenner, vaccinating his young child

The topic of immunisation is an interesting topic to consider with pupils.  This topic can cover change and development over several thousand years and include discussions on topics such as epidemiology, politics, the progression of science and medicine, morality, agency, protest and resistance, modern context and sanitation/disease.

Between scarification, insufflation, variolation, vaccination and experimentation there is scope for extensive discussions on treatment practice.  Also, examinations of symptoms of diseases such as smallpox can be interesting topics for presentations as well engaging subjects for question and answer sessions and group discussion work.  Additionally, discussions of the impact of inoculation during war as a form or military control and as protection for serving soldiers in the later 19th century and throughout the 20th century also allow pupils to tackle with conflicting notions such as morality, autonomy and the suspension of norms during war.

Within the introductory lesson of the school engagement project as part of the Curriculum for Excellence Resource – History & Healthcare, smallpox is discussed as part of a larger discussion on disease and epidemiology.  The diagnosis of smallpox symptoms on a worksheet is a key part of the group activity.  (See the resource section for more examples of this lesson.)

This section of the lesson has always been well received with pupils who tend to grin and groan over, but also retain information regarding, the descriptions of bursting pustules and explanations of arm to arm violation.

As a snapshot, the history of vaccination has constantly been a fun and educational component of the programme.

Please find below a series of links and resources that were helpful in incorporating immunisation into the lesson.

Edward Jenner, vaccinating his young child