How are diseases such as smallpox eradicated? ‘Turning the tables’ outlines the development of vaccination programmes including Edward Jenner’s research on smallpox in the late 18th century and Louis Pasteur’s rabies vaccine. In order to prevent virus spread, at least 80 per cent of a population must be vaccinated. The difference between live and inactivated vaccines is explained using the case of polio. The ethical debate surrounding vaccination is also discussed along with antiviral drugs, recombinant subunit viral vaccines, the difficulties of producing a vaccine for HIV, and the invention of the polymerase chain reaction in the 1980s and human genome sequencing, which have revolutionized viral diagnosis.