Smallpox Vaccination Needles (three) (USA), 1970s
Introduced in 1968, the “Pronged Vaccinating and Testing Needle” (US Patent 3,194,237) was a small innovation that dramatically assisted the global eradica¬tion effort of smallpox. The simple tine design was the brainchild of microbiologist Benjamin Rubin of Wyeth Laboratories in collaboration with engineer Gus Chakros. The two men adapted a sewing-machine needle by grinding it into a double-pronged fork shape. Capillary action held liquid within the tiny split in an amount sufficient for successive jabs and effective inoculation on the skin’s surface. Skin is ideal because it contains antigen cells from the immune system. The bifurcated needle decreased the waste of inoculate by as much as 50 percent and provided accurate, consistent dos¬age and puncture efficiency. Vaccinators did not require extensive training, nor were complicated field techniques necessary—the tines of the slim steel needles held the exact dosage. Batch-cleaned and steril¬ized, needles could be used over and over again.
It is credited
Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Cat. 1985.3109.100.1–3.
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Its dimensions are
H x W (each): 6.5 x 0.1 cm (2 9/16 x 1/16 in.) H x W (three placed together): 10.5 x 2.3 cm (4 1/8 x 7/8 in.)
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.