In 1879, renowned French scientist Louis Pasteur created the first vaccine (for chicken cholera) in his laboratory, and his experiments later led to the development of live attenuated cholera vaccine (in 1897) and inactivated anthrax vaccine (in 1904).
Pasteur, along with Emile Roux also developed the first rabies vaccination in 1885. However, it is British doctor Edward Jenner who is considered to be the father of vaccinology. In 1796, he demonstrated that an infection with the mild cowpox virus (vaccinia virus) conferred immunity against the dangerous smallpox virus. Cowpox served as a natural vaccine until the modern smallpox vaccine was developed two years later.
The World Health Organization (WHO) conducted mass immunization programs throughout the globe from 1958 to 1977, which resulted in smallpox becoming the only human disease to be eradicated from the world, in 1979.
The 19th century saw the development of the plague vaccine, and the period from 1890 to 1950 witnessed great activity in vaccine development, which included the BCG (Bacillis-Calmette-Guerin) vaccine, used against tuberculosis, which was developed by French scientists Albert Calmette and Camille Guerin.
Ukranian bacteriologist Waldemar Mordechai Wolff Haffkine, who worked at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, developed vaccines against bubonic plague (testing it on himself first, in 1897) and cholera (again testing it on himself first, in 1898).
In 1923, a method to inactivate tetanus toxin with formaldehyde was developed by British biologist Alexander Glenny, and in 1926, he used the same method to develop a vaccine against diphtheria.
In the 1930s, a vaccine for pertussis (whooping cough) was developed by American scientists Pearl Kendrick and Grace Eldering, which was licensed for use in the US in 1948.
The period from 1950 to 1975 was another prolific period, which saw the development of the Salk (inactivated) polio vaccine (introduced in 1955), and the Sabin (live attenuated oral) polio vaccine (introduced in 1962), through virus tissue culture methods. Systematic implementation of mass polio immunization around the world has eradicated this debilitating disease from many regions today.
In 1971, Merck received license for use of the MMR vaccine, consisting of attenuated strains of measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles), which was developed by American scientist Maurice Hilleman. With continuing mass MMR immunization around the world, measles (which caused 2.6 million deaths every year before immunization became common) could well be the next disease to be eradicated.
In 1981, Hilleman also developed the first hepatitis B vaccine; however, in 1986, this blood-derived vaccine was replaced by a recombinant version developed by Chilean biochemist Pablo DT Valenzuela, who succeeded in making the antigen in yeast.
In present times, molecular genetics and new vaccine delivery systems play vital roles in the development of vaccines. The cost of developing a new vaccine, including vaccines abandoned during the development process, can cost anywhere from USD200 million to USD500 million.