Covid Vaccine Vials

We have two Covid vaccine vials in our History of Medicine Collection.

One is for the Astrazeneca vaccine, and the other is for the Pfizer vaccine.

The Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine was developed by the University of Oxford, and is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (known as an adenovirus) from chimpanzees. It has been modified to look more like coronavirus - although it can't cause illness.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine. Traditional vaccines use inactivated, dead, or portions of actual virus to create an immune response, while mRNA delivers a message to your body’s cells via a "lipid nanoparticle envelope" that instructs the cells to make the spike protein found on the surface of a coronavirus. This creates an immune response.

These vaccines were made as a response to the Covid pandemic which was declared in March 2020. Covid is a new type of coronavirus, and it quickly spread through the world's populations, as there was no natural immunity to it. Scientists worked at an usually fast pace in order to create vaccines which could protect people and allow societies to re-open after long periods of lockdowns.

Face Masks

We have a cloth face mask and a surgical face mask in our History of Medicine Collection.

During the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, face masks have become increasingly prevalent in daily life. In many countries it is now the law for face masks to be worn in certain settings where there is a high risk of virus transmission, including buses, shops, and other enclosed public spaces.

A face covering can be any cloth item that you use to cover your mouth and nose - for example, a scarf or bandana. You can buy single-use or reusable face coverings or make your own. Public Health England has issued guidance on how you can make your own cloth face coverings. You might also sometimes hear a face covering referred to as a ‘fabric mask’.

Medical or surgical face masks are those worn by healthcare and other workers, as part of personal protective equipment (PPE). They tend to be blue or green in colour, fit flat against the face from the nose to the chin, and have pleats or folds.

Listen to Dr Helene-Mari van der Westhuizen, researcher in tuberculosis transmission in Africa, talk about face masks here:



Childhood Vaccines

We have two vials and packaging for routine vaccines given to children, including the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) and the haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and meningitis C vaccine.

Childhood vaccines protect children from a variety of serious or potentially fatal diseases, including diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, tetanus, whooping cough and others. If these diseases seem uncommon — or even unheard of — it's usually because these vaccines are doing their job. Vaccination is the most effective method of preventing infectious diseases.

Smallpox was the first disease for which a vaccine was produced. The smallpox vaccine was invented in 1796 by English physician Edward Jenner. He was the first to publish evidence that it was effective and to provide advice on its production. It was called vaccination because it was derived from a virus affecting cows (Latin: vacca 'cow'). Smallpox was a contagious and deadly disease, causing the deaths of 20–60% of infected adults and over 80% of infected children. When smallpox was finally eradicated in 1979, it had already killed an estimated 300–500 million people in the 20th century.

Listen to Matthew Snape, Professor in General Paediatrics and Vaccinology at the Oxford Vaccine Group, University of Oxford Department of Paediatrics, talk about vaccines below:


Laparoscopic Instrument

We have a laparoscopic instrument in our History of Medicine collection.

Laparoscopic surgery, or keyhole surgery, is a modern surgical technique. It carries a number of advantages over traditional surgical techniques, which include reduced pain since the incisions are smaller, reduced bleeding and shorter recovery time.

The main element is the use of a laparoscope, a long fiber optic cable system that enables viewing of the affected area. Laparoscopic surgery includes operations within the abdominal or pelvic cavities, whereas keyhole surgery performed on the thoracic or chest cavity is called thoracoscopic surgery.


Hand Sanitiser

We have a bottle of hand sanitiser in our 21st Century Medicine Collection.

Hand sanitiser is a gel or foam that kills germs and infectious bacteria. It is used as an alternative to hand-washing, and comes in two main varieties, those that are alcohol-based and those which are not. Hand sanitiser is listed on the WHO’s List of Essential Medicines.

Alcohol-based hand sanitiser kills many types of viruses by dissolving their fat membranes. It kills bacteria by disrupting its cell membrane. The product also usually contains hydrogen peroxide which kills bacterial spores.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, hand sanitiser has become standard in workplaces, and other public spaces such as shops, in order to help protect people from contracting the virus.

Listen to Dr Oliver van Hecke, from the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, talk about hand washing and hand sanitisers here:

Covid-19 Public Health Poster

This Covid-19 poster is part of our History of Medicine Collection.

These posters were put up in workplaces and communities during the Covid-19 pandemic to raise awareness about preventing the spread of coronavirus, and to encourage members of the public to stay at home and not socialise with others. The wording was written to engage the public emotionally by framing social distancing as a way of protecting loved ones from the virus.

Urine Testing Sticks

We have a pack of urine testing sticks in our History of Medicine Collection. 

The strips test the content of urine and are used to detect and manage a wide range of medical disorders, such as urinary tract infections, kidney disease and diabetes. These thin, plastic sticks have strips of chemicals on them. When in contact with urine, the chemical strips will change colour if certain substances are present or if certain levels are above, or below, normal which can indicate the presence of things like proteins, sugar, blood, and white blood cells. They are a convenient method of testing, but false-positive and false-negative results can occur.

Listen to Dr Gareth Jones, a local GP, talk about urine testing here: 

Homeopathic Medicine

We have a bottle of homeopathic arnica tablets in our History of Medicine Collection.

Arnica is a herb which is native to Europe and North America, and is toxic if consumed. These pills are entirely safe, but also entirely ineffective.

Homeopathy arose from ideas developed by a German doctor called Samuel Hahnemann in the 1790s. A key belief is that a substance that causes certain symptoms can also help to remove those symptoms. Practitioners believe that the more a substance is diluted, the greater its power to treat symptoms. In fact, a typical homeopathic remedy has been diluted so many times that there is no molecule of the original substance left in final test tube. A drop of this liquid (with no active ingredient) is then placed on a pill, and this is what patients will consume. 

A 2010 House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on homeopathy stated that homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebos, and that "the principles on which homeopathy is based are "scientifically implausible". Despite there being no scientific evidence that homeopathy is effective, many people continue to use these remedies for a wide range of conditions.

It is a perfect example of patients in the 21st century relying on an ineffective remedy.

Listen to Simon Singh, science author and physicist, talk about homeopathy here: