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By: Efraim Harari

Vaccination builds up your resistance, or immunity, to a disease. It helps to protect you against an infectious disease by exposing you to a mild, killed, or altered version of the germ, in order to make your body build up protection in the form of antibodies. An antibody is a protein produced by the body's immune system when it detects harmful substances, called antigens. Examples of antigens include bacteria and viruses.

Vaccinations are from the most important discoveries in medical history. Without vaccinations, millions of people of all ages would contract serious diseases, which would lead to long-lasting harmful effects or even death.

The first successful vaccine was developed in 1796 by an English doctor named Dr. Edward Jenner. In the eighteenth century, there was a deadly and contagious disease called smallpox. Dr. Jenner heard that people who worked on dairy farms and had been infected with cowpox, a disease related to but much milder than smallpox, were not susceptible to smallpox (meaning, they couldn’t get sick with smallpox). Jenner performed the first vaccination by injecting matter from a cowpox sore into a boy. The boy developed cowpox, but when Jenner later injected the boy with matter from a smallpox sore, the boy did not come down with that disease. His bout with cowpox had helped his body build up an immunity to smallpox. Jenner's classic experiment was the first officially recorded vaccination.

The person most famous for the development of vaccinations, however, is microbiologist Louis Pasteur. Pasteur was the first to prove that airborne microbes are often the cause of disease. He also proved that many diseases are caused by germs that multiply in the body. Pasteur knew about the work done by Jenner regarding smallpox, and reasoned that a vaccine could be found for all diseases.
Two of the vaccines Pasteur developed were for anthrax and rabies. Anthrax is an infectious and often fatal disease affecting cattle and sheep. Pasteur proved that if microbes are weakened in a laboratory and then placed in an animal's body, the animal develops an immunity to the microbe and will therefore not develop the disease caused by that specific microbe.

In 1885, Pasteur created the vaccine for rabies. Rabies is a highly contagious, infectious disease which attacks the central nervous system and is often fatal. It enters the body through the bite of a rabies-infected animal or through infected saliva entering an existing wound.

Pasteur spent countless hours in his laboratory experimenting with the saliva of animals suffering from rabies. On July 6, 1985 a rabid dog bit a boy named Joseph Meister. The boy's parents begged Pasteur to save their son. Pasteur hesitated to use his new vaccine on a human being, but he finally agreed. After several weeks of treatment, the vaccine proved successful. Since then, millions have been saved by this treatment.


In the early 1860's, Pasteur realized that wine turns bitter because of germs that enter the wine while it is being made. He proved that applying a controlled amount of heat could kill the germs without changing the flavor of the wine. This use of heat as a means to kill germs became known as pasteurization, after Pasteur. Pasteur also used this method to preserve milk, beer, and food.


The most common animals to be infected with rabies in the United States include raccoons, skunks, and foxes.

The Rest of the Story Behind the Rabies Vaccination…

Rabbi Yisrael Michael Rabinowitz, a friend of Louis Pasteur, claimed that
the basis of Pasteur’s revolutionary research for the rabies vaccination was the Gemara!

While living in Paris, Rabbi Rabinowitz began translating the Gemara into French. Pasteur saw a copy of Seder Mo’ed, and his interest was piqued when he read the following statement:

If someone is bitten by a mad dog [affected with rabies], he should be fed the lobe of that dog’s liver. (Yoma 84b)

Pasteur was amazed at this healing method, which used part of the infected animal itself. He concluded that the Sages knew that an infected body produces antibodies, which attack an invading infection. Pasteur immediately began a series of experiments – which resulted in the rabies vaccine.