How long have vaccines been around?

Short Answer

The idea of actively preventing disease has been around for over 1,000 years. The United States began to move toward widespread vaccine use in 1812 with the formation of the U.S. Vaccine Agency.


The earliest documented evidence of vaccination dates back to AD 1000, when the son of a Chinese statesman was reportedly inoculated against smallpox, probably by having powder from pulverized smallpox scabs blown into his nostril. Scratching matter from a smallpox sore into the skin may also have been used as a means of inoculation.

To learn more about the history of infectious disease and the development of vaccines, visit our Interactive Timeline.