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Innovation will help us leave a positive health legacy from COVID-19
  1. Ashley McKimm
  1. BMJ, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JR, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ashley McKimm, BMJ, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JR, UK; amckimm{at}

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Sitting in his garden in Berkeley, England, in 1796, Edward Jenner injected James Phipps, an 8-year-old boy and son of his gardener, with pus from a cowpox patient. It was the first recognised step in the development of modern-day vaccines and would also ultimately lead to the eradication of smallpox, which is estimated to have been responsible for the deaths of around 300 million people.1

Jenner’s innovation was an evolution of existing ideas—inoculation or variolation had been known about since the 1600s spreading from China and Africa to Europe—but his experimentation with cowpox was widely recognised as the world’s first controlled vaccination against smallpox. He was also the one who named the procedure vaccination from the Latin word for cowpox—‘vaccinia’.

At the time, like many novel innovations, Jenner struggled to get traction and was …

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  • Contributors EiC editorial for April issue. Sole author.

  • Competing interests Editor-in-Chief of BMJ Innovations and full-time employee of BMJ Publishing Group Ltd.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.