Vaccines Before and After the COVID-19 Pandemic Kudos to Drs. Kariko and Weissman Connection

Joseph R. Anticaglia, MD
Medical Advisory Board

“Traditional Vaccines, I noted, “are made of whole or parts of dead or weakened viruses or bacteria. Once a person is vaccinated against a specific virus, for example, the Hepatitis B virus, the immune system manufactures neutralizing antibodies against that virus. It also puts the ‘face’ of the virus into its memory bank. The next time the person is exposed to the hepatitis B virus, the immune system recognizes its face and sets in motion a series of actions: to locate, kill, and remove it from the body.”

Vaccines Before the COVID-19 Pandemic

The story of smallpox, the contagious and often deadly viral disease, can illustrate vaccines before COVID. Its origin is lost in prehistory according to Stefan Riedel, MD, PhD. Thousands of years ago the variola virus emerged and its subsequent disfiguring and lethal effects have been documented for centuries.

Many credit, Edward Jenner, an English physician with creating the first vaccine. He observed that dairymaids who contracted cowpox, a mild disease often spread to human beings by contact with cows. Remarkably, the women were resistant to smallpox. He thought if cowpox could be transmitted from a person with the disease to a healthy one, it could offer the healthy individual protection against smallpox.

To test his theory, Jenner located a dairymaid with fresh cowpox lesions. He took fluid material from the cowpox lesions and inoculated it, scratched the material into the skin of an eight year old boy in May of 1796. The boy contracted cowpox with a mild fever and loss of appetite. In about two weeks he felt fine.

In July of the same year, Jenner inoculated the boy again but this time with material from a fresh smallpox lesion. The youngster didn’t get smallpox. Thus, the live, relatively mild cowpox virus conferred immunity against the lethal smallpox virus. It was not until May 8, 1980, that the World Health Assembly declared the world free of this disease and fulfilled the hope of Edward Jenner that vaccination could annihilate smallpox.

Vaccines After the COVID-19 Pandemic and mRNA

“The Messenger RNA (ribonucleic acid) vaccine, I wrote. ‘has the same objective as traditional vaccines — to protect us from infectious diseases. They do not use live, weak, or dead viruses. When you roll up your sleeve to get the Moderna or Pfizer -BioNTech COVID vaccine injection in the deltoid muscle of the upper arm, a cascade of events unfolds.’

The mRNA vaccine works by taking a harmless piece of the COVID-19 virus and injecting it into your body. That protein piece of COVID triggers the immune system to create antibodies to protect you from Covid-19. In the future if you’re exposed to the COVID virus, protective antibodies will snap into action to recognize, track down, kill and remove it from the body.

Drs. Kariko and Weissman Connection

The Noble Prize committee announced the winners of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Medicine to Drs. Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman on October 2, 2023, by saying; ‘The discoveries by the two Nobel Laureates were critical for developing effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 during the pandemic that began in early 2020. Through their groundbreaking findings, which have fundamentally changed our understanding of how mRNA interacts with our immune system, the laureates contributed to the unprecedented rate of vaccine development during one of the greatest threats to human health in modern times.”

In many ways, it took the pandemic of 2020 caused by the coronavirusSARS-CoV2 (COVID-19) to propelled scientists into turbo drive to develop clinical application of mRNA technology. The Nobel Prize Committee recognized the beneficial findings and brilliant research achieved by Drs. Kariko and Weissman. And the public is grateful for saving countless lives because of their Nobel Prize work.


  • Joseph R. Anticaglia, MD; Messenger RNA Vaccines: How Do They Protect Us Against COVD-19? Doctor’s Column HC Smart, September 15, 2021
  • Joseph R. Anticaglia, MD; Dr. Katalin Kariko — Will the mRNA Messenger Be Awarded the Nobel Prize? Doctor’s Column HC Smart, October 25, 2021
  • The Nobel Prize; Press Release, October 02, 2023
  • Stefan Riedel, MD, PhD; Edward Jenner and the history of smallpox and vaccination; Proc (Baylor Univ Med Cent); January 2005
  • CDC; History of Smallpox; February 2021


“Vaccinus” — Dr. Edward Jenner most likely derived the term vaccine from the Latin word for cow vaccinus. Another Latin word for cow — vacca.

This article is intended solely as a learning experience. Please consult your physician for diagnostic and treatment options.