“Vacca” is the Latin word for “cow” and the root of the English word “vaccine.” Let’s review a little history so as to understand how cows had a part in the development of vaccines.

Smallpox has ravaged mankind and his civilizations periodically for centuries. The disease has been found in an Egyptian mummy dated to 1500 B.C. In the 18th century, 400,000 Europeans per year died from the disease. After the European conquest of the Americas, an estimated two-thirds of the native population was exterminated by the disease. In the 20th century, smallpox was estimated to have killed 300 million people worldwide.

William Bezdek is a retired physician and long-standing Bakersfield resident.