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Vaccination is the administration of antigenic material (the vaccine) to produce immunity to a disease. Vaccines can prevent or ameliorate the effects of infection by a pathogen.

It is considered to be the most effective and cost-effective method of preventing infectious diseases. The material administrated can either be live, but also weakened forms of pathogens such as bacteria or viruses, killed or inactivated forms of these pathogens, or purified material such as proteins.

In 1718, lady Mary Wortley Montague reported that the Turks had a habit of deliberately inoculating themselves with fluid taken from mild cases of smallpox and she inoculated her own children.

In 1796 Edward Jenner inoculated using cowpox (a mild relative of the deadly smallpox virus); Pasteur and others built on this.

The term vaccination was first used by Edward Jenner, an English physician. 22 years later, in 1796. Louis Pasteur further adapted in his pioneering work in microbiology. Vaccination (Latin: vacca = cow) is so named because the first vaccine was derived from a virus affecting cows-the relatively benign cowpox virus-which provides a degree of immunity to smallpox, a contagious and deadly disease. In common speech, 'vaccination' and 'immunization' generally have the same colloquial meaning.

This distinguishes it from inoculation which uses unweakened live pathogens, although in common usage either is used to refer to an immunization. The word "vaccination" was originally used specifically to describe the injection of smallpox vaccine.

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