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Impact of Case Studies on Public Image of Science in Relation to the Development of the Smallpox Disease

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Cowpox is an infectious disease caused by the cowpox virus, closely related to the vaccinia virus (, 2019). This disease is transferable between species as can be seen by dairymaids who touched the udders of infected cows and consequently developed pustules on their hands (, 2019). This disease is very similar to the deadly smallpox disease as it has close mild resemblance in the observation of dairy maids. Figure 1 depicts the pustules on a cow’s udder and it can be noted that the way they are formed are similar to Figure 2 (, 2019).


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), smallpox is “an acute contagious disease caused by the variola virus” (World Health Organization, 2019). Smallpox is known as one of the most devastating diseases known to humanity as it would cause a person to have a severe rash with blisters and a high fever that can kill up to one-third of people who contract it (John P. Cunha, 2019) See Figure 2 for how smallpox can affect an individual. Smallpox is a highly contagious disease that is transmitted from person to person by inhalation (John P. Cunha, 2019). However, the infectious virus can remain on surfaces for up to a week and can also be spread through this transmission. (John P. Cunha, 2019). History of smallpox can be traced back to the Egyptians and has continued to affect the world until its recent eradication in 1980 due to the success of the worldwide public health initiative (John P. Cunha, 2019). In 1967 this global campaign was launched, successfully achieving 80% vaccine coverage in each country which provided the area with enough herd immunity to eradicate the disease (World Health Organization, 2019). It was vital for humanity to begin eradicating the disease for a wide range of economic and societal factors. There was an estimated $1 billion in savings as a result of the eradication(World Health Organization, 2019). This is because less people will be needing medical treatment to cure or manage the disease (World Health Organization, 2019). Furthermore, eradication will allow young children and elderly to be less likely, if not impossible odds of contracting the harmful disease protecting them and the ones they love. Smallpox is currently in two contained locations, one in an American lab and one in a Russian lab for further investigation (John P. Cunha, 2019). However, before it was a contained problem, smallpox affected the whole world. The smallpox disease affected European and Asian countries until the introduction of a vaccine created by Edward Jenner, Figure 3, who performed an experiment on a young boy which allowed the disease to steadily decline (John P. Cunha, 2019). The Americas was first exposed to the disease with the introduction of the European settlers. As the Native Americans had not previously been exposed to the disease, the introduction of smallpox wiped out nearly half of the population (John P. Cunha, 2019). The eradication of the disease began with the mandatory vaccinations for individuals in developed countries. This aided in the protection by herd immunity which ensures that the disease cannot spread as rapidly as before leading to its extinction (John P. Cunha, 2019). In 1980, the last case of smallpox was reported and the disease was officially eradicated. Smallpox had positive effects on the public image of science as vaccines as families could protect their loved ones from death of this disease.

MMR Vaccine

The MMR vaccine gives an individual 99% protection against measles, mumps, and rubella in order to protect a person from these diseases (, 2019). Children are commonly vaccinated twice in order to provide thorough coverage from the 3 diseases as well as chicken pox (, 2019). Adults are encouraged to get a dose of the vaccine if they had not had one previously (, 2019). Plus there is no harm in adults receiving another dose of the vaccine in order to be further protected (, 2019). In order to receive this vaccination, it is vital that the individual states is they aren’t feeling well, have any severe allergies, are pregnant or plan to be pregnant in the next 2 months, have received another live vaccination in the last month, have received blood, blood products or immunoglobulin in the last 3 months, have a disease or having treatment that may lower immunity (, 2019). Furthermore, to prevent any harm to a developing baby, a pregnant woman shouldn’t receive the MMR vaccine as it is a live vaccine (, 2019). There is no physical proof of it causing harm, however, it is not recommended (, 2019). The MMR vaccine is safe, effective, and has limited numbers of side effects (, 2019). Before the introduction of the vaccine, roughly 100 children died each year from measles whereas today, deaths are rare (, 2019). The minimal side effects include low-grade fever, muscle aches, soreness, swelling, redness, and a small lump appearing at the injection site.


Vaccines offer protection from infections as they stimulate an immune response. This is done by injecting a version of the disease that will not infect the individual but will be enough to stimulate an immune response and create antibodies in the bloodstream strong enough to fight off the actual disease. Vaccines are the most effective way of preventing smallpox infection (John P. Cunha, 2019) as they are able to successfully immunize a population. The smallpox vaccine arose from a scientist named Edward Jenner who tested his theory of disease protection by inoculating a young boy with a material from a milkmaid who was infected with the milder form of smallpox, known as cowpox (John P. Cunha, 2019). The success of the experiment performed by Jenner led to the development of the smallpox vaccine which helped eventually head towards eradication (John P. Cunha, 2019). The smallpox vaccine is made from vaccinia which is obtained from the disease similar to smallpox. The vaccination is given by an inoculation which is injected with a two-pronged needle dipped into the vaccine solution (John P. Cunha, 2019). This needle then pricks the skin 15 times which can cause soreness, swelling, and a minor fever resulting in a blister that will fall off within two weeks (John P. Cunha, 2019). Even though there were minor side effects on the person who was given the vaccine, the bigger picture of the eradication of smallpox was of far more importance (John P. Cunha, 2019).

Impact of the smallpox vaccine on the public view of science

The smallpox vaccine has had a significant impact of the public views of science (John P. Cunha, 2019). In general, it can be stated that the smallpox vaccine was the start to modern medicine and had a great impact on the way medicine is practised today. The smallpox vaccine was extremely effective in protecting an individual against disease however there were a few minor side effects attached the immunisation of an individual (Edward A. Belongia, 2019). The individual could develop a headache, fever, rash, and soreness at the spot of vaccination (Edward A. Belongia, 2019). These symptoms would more commonly occur for a first time vaccination rather than a follow up one (Edward A. Belongia, 2019). Although the symptoms of smallpox vaccine were less than preferable, the symptoms of receiving the vaccine was clearly better than contracting the disease (Edward A. Belongia, 2019). Through the mandatory vaccination in the 1900’s in America, the disease was able to be slowly eradicated (John P. Cunha, 2019). This has a significant impact on the public’s view of science as the public would be able to live without being fearful of contacting the disease, however, the mild side effects of the vaccination did not satisfy the public’s needs. Before the vaccination smallpox seemed to control many people’s lives, taking away loved ones and causing a great deal of pain. However, with the introduction of the vaccine, it was able to limit the chances of losing a loved one or yourself to smallpox.

Evaluate the impact of scientific research, devices, and applications on world health and human wellbeing in relation to vaccination programs for the eradication of disease

Scientific research devices and applications

The smallpox vaccine had a significant impact on the development of future vaccines and the health of our society. As previously stated the smallpox vaccine was the start to modern medicine and had a great impact on the way medicine is currently practiced. Edward Jenner is well known for his innovative contribution to immunization and the ultimate eradication of smallpox (Riedel, 2019). As a result of Jenner’s vaccinations, the origin of smallpox as a natural disease has been lost in prehistory (Riedel, 2019). For many years, Jenner had heard the tales that dairymaids were protected from smallpox after having suffered from cowpox (Riedel, 2019). From this knowledge, Jenner was able to conclude that cowpox not only protected against smallpox but could be transmitted from one person to another as a deliberate mechanism of protection, now known as a vaccination (Riedel, 2019). Jenner went on the test this hypothesis by using a young dairymaid who had fresh cowpox lesions on her hands and arms, Figure 4 (Riedel, 2019). Following this, in 1796 Jenner inoculated an 8-year-old boy with matter from the milkmaid’s lesions(Riedel, 2019). The boy went on to develop a mild fever and discomfort (Riedel, 2019). Two months later, Jenner inoculated the boy again, this time with matter from a fresh smallpox lesion (Riedel, 2019). No disease developed for the boy and this allowed Jenner to conclude that the cowpox inoculation protected the young boy from contracting smallpox. This finding had a significant impact on the growth of modern-day medicine and lead the path of similar vaccinations to be created for other diseases.

World health and human wellbeing

Vaccinations had a significant benefit to the health and wellbeing of the world population (Ochmann and Roser, 2019) as less people got sick and less people died from the viral infection. Through the efforts of Jenner and the development of the smallpox vaccine, smallpox was able to be eradicated allowing for the suffering of humanity due to this disease, a problem that is no longer (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). Vaccinations serve as a great prevention of disease. As a result of the smallpox vaccination, the smallpox disease could be eradicated (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). As Figure 5 shows, each country eradicated the disease at different points in history leading to the full eradication in 1997 (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). Australia, New Zealand eradicated the disease in the 1910s due to the smaller population. This can be brought down to easier herd immunity for the smaller population (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). In the 1920’s Germany, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, and Finland among some other countries managed to eradicate the disease but took them slightly longer than the other countries due to their larger population (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). In the 1930s Russia, Ukraine, and Poland, among some other surrounding countries eradicated the disease, in the 40s Greece, Italy, America, and Canada among other countries eradicated the disease (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). This can be brought down to higher populations as well as America’s compulsory vaccination program pushing the eradication to occur sooner than expected (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). Following this, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Portugal, Venezuela, and Mexico, as well as some other small countries eradicated the disease (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). The majority of countries that eradicated the disease in the 60s was the majority of South America, majority of Africa, and China (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). This can be due to the developing nature of these areas, meaning they have less access to doctors and vaccination resources meaning it will take longer to achieve the desired herd immunity (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). Finally, the last countries to eradicate the disease were Brazil, Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). This can also be said that it was a result of the lack of medical resources in order to achieve the necessary herd immunity to protect the community(Ochmann and Roser, 2019).

Eradication of disease

Vaccinations in general have benefited humanity in several ways. Through vaccinations, less people have contracted deadly disease saving their lives. The community has become stronger as loved ones specifically elerly and young children are less likely to lose their life due to a deadly infectious diseases such as smallpox. Before the vaccination, smallpox caused death to an approximated 30% of people who caught the disease 10 to 16 days after the individual began feeling symptoms (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). The vaccination also benefited humanity as there was no treatment for smallpox (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). Once a person was infected it was impossible to treat them, doctors could only helplessly let the disease run its course and hope that the human immune system would be able to adequately fight off the disease (6). If the disease still existed it could be possible that modern-day antiviral drugs would allow treatment (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). However, at the time where disease was around and thriving, there was no treatment for an individual. As a result, the vaccination was able to provide an individual with a way to protect themselves from the initial infection and essentially death as almost a third of infections resulted in the death of the host (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). As a result of global vaccination programs successfully achieving 80% vaccinated individuals in each county the number of reported smallpox cases significantly decreased (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). As can be seen in Figure 6, the number of reported smallpox cases underwent significant changes that led to the eradication of the disease (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). In 1920, there was 400,00 reported cases, 3 years later there was a significant decrease to where there was 179,400 reported cases globally (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). From this to the officially eradication in 1978, there were several spikes in reported cases and several rapid decrease (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). The major spike occurred in 1948 where there was 632,858 globally reported cases, by far the year with the most reported cases in this data graph (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). Following this event, the numbers continued to drop with a few smaller spikes where the individuals were exposed more to the virus leading to the total eradication in 1978 (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). These trends can be due to vaccination programs in schools and the worldwide efforts to get 80% of the people in each country to have vaccination coverage (Ochmann and Roser, 2019). This eventually lead to the eradication of the viral disease and the overall well-being of humanity (Ochmann and Roser, 2019).

Examine a contemporary scientific debate and how it portrayed in mainstream media. You must examine the accuracy of the information, validity of data and reliability of information sources. In your research, you will identify the aim of your scientific area of research by writing inquiry question and a scientific hypothesis

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Inquiry question

How does misrepresentation of science impact societies views on vaccination


To determine contemporary issues in science that have had a significant impact of societies views of the effectiveness of vaccinations


Vaccinations are a useful tool to prevent against disease. Over time societies views on science has changed due to various media platforms. How can we address and fix societies views on science?

Journal articles

The misproven article, by Andrew Wakefield, which explained that the MMR vaccination causes autism has had a significant impact of the way humanity views the effectiveness of vaccinations. The falsely claimed side effects of vaccinations has been believed by some of the public, resulting in a large group of people fearing these side effects which have been disproved countless times having a significant impact on the public’s view of science.

In 1998, Andrew Wakefield and 12 of his colleagues published a case series which suggested that specific vaccines such as the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) may predispose children to developmental issues (Sathyanarayana Rao and Andrade, 2011). Despite the small sample size, the uncontrolled design and the speculative nature of the conclusions that the team reached, the paper received wide publicity and the MMR vaccination rates began to drop because parents were concerned about the risk of vaccination. Although immediately afterward, epidemiological studies were conducted and published, refuting the posited link between MMR vaccination and autism, the public still to this day expresses concern that this article could contain elements of truth (Sathyanarayana Rao and Andrade, 2011). The logic that the MMR vaccine causes autism was also questioned because a temporal link between the two is almost predestined by design or definition, occurring in early childhood (Sathyanarayana Rao and Andrade, 2011). This fear that the public felt resulted in the MMR vaccination rates dropping as parents were concerned about the risk of autism after vaccination (Sathyanarayana Rao and Andrade, 2011). This was detrimental as the amount of people contracting these harmful diseases were on the rise. 10 of the 12 of Wakefields co workers retracted the interpretation of the original data by expressing ‘no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient’ (Sathyanarayana Rao and Andrade, 2011). The Lancet, which is a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal, completely retracted the Wakefield paper in February 2010 admitted that several elements in the paper were incorrect, contrary to the findings of the earlier investigation. Wakefield was held guilty of ethical violations as they has conducted invasive investigations on the children without obtaining the necessary ethical clearances and scientific misrepresentation (Sathyanarayana Rao and Andrade, 2011).

Implications of these journal articles

Scientists and organizations across the world spent a great deal of time and money refuting the results of a minor paper in the Lancet and exposing the scientific fraud that formed the basis of the paper in order to mend societies views on vaccinations (Sathyanarayana Rao and Andrade, 2011). Parents across the world refused to vaccinate their children with the MMR vaccine among several other vaccines out of fear that they would cause autism (Sathyanarayana Rao and Andrade, 2011). This exposed the children to the risk of the disease and the WHO saw a rise in the reported cases of measles. As Figure 7 depicts, measles were on the rise until the year 1997 where the numbers slightly drop (World Health Organization, 2019). From the publishing of the article in 1998, we can see the public beginning to stop vaccinating children at the year 2003, where the number of reported cases jumps to 4 million (World Health Organization, 2019). Ever since then, the number of reported cases have been on a steady incline (World Health Organization, 2019). This shows the effect that the article had on the public’s view of science as society has lost trust with science and the success rate of these vaccinations (World Health Organization, 2019).

Reliability, validity, and accuracy of the original journal article

The paper written by Andrew Wakefield is a false article regarding that the MMR vaccination can result in the development of autism. Due to the fraudulence of this article it can be deduced that the reliability, validity, and accuracy is limited. The sample small size indicates that the paper was limited in its accuracy as not enough people were tested to achieve a true conclusion. The way that the experiment was carried out was uncontrolled showing that this test cannot be considered valid. Finally, the speculative nature of Wakefield’s conclusions allows readers to come to the conclusion that the journal article is not reliable. Therefore, the Wakefield journal article was fraudulent and cannot be considered reliable, valid and accurate.

Reliability, validity, and accuracy of the Lancet journal article

The Lancet journal article essentially proved the original Wakefield article false. Due to the reputation of the Lancet, it can be stated that the source is reliable. Furthermore, the Lancet article can be considered valid as several tests and controls were used in order to state that Wakefield’s paper was fraudulent. Finally, the Lancet article can be considered accurate as they conducted several tests to ensure the truth of the claimed side effect of autism from the MMR vaccine. Therefore, the Lancet journal articles can be said to be valid, reliable, and accurate.

Reliability, validity, and accuracy of the media

The media played an important role in the large problems that this article caused surrounding the public’s views of science. The media cannot be considered accurate as it is common that they source their information from places that will not provide them with the most correct answers. The media cannot be considered reliable as the information that is presented is commonly from one source, whereas to make it more reliable it would need to be sourced from at least three accurate sources with similar information. Furthermore, the media cannot be considered valid as the common interest of the media is to grab the public’s attention and through manipulating information they way they present different topics cannot be considered valid.


The past events of cowpox, smallpox, and the recent problems surrounding the MMR vaccine has had significant implications on the public’s view of science. Vaccination programs, scientific research, and other devices has had a significant impact on the success of the global smallpox vaccination initiative and as a result, benefitting humanity’s wellbeing. Although the success and positive reaction to vaccinations, the moder

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Impact of Case Studies on Public Image of Science in Relation to the Development of the Smallpox Disease. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from
“Impact of Case Studies on Public Image of Science in Relation to the Development of the Smallpox Disease.” Edubirdie, 14 Jul. 2022,
Impact of Case Studies on Public Image of Science in Relation to the Development of the Smallpox Disease. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 6 Dec. 2022].
Impact of Case Studies on Public Image of Science in Relation to the Development of the Smallpox Disease [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jul 14 [cited 2022 Dec 6]. Available from:
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