The End of Smallpox
Derrick Baxby looks at the history of the smallpox vaccination, how it was opposed by many, and how the disease was finally eradicated.
Anyone asked to define ‘conscientious objector’ would undoubtedly describe someone refusing military service on religious or moral grounds. However the term entered English Law in 1898 to describe those who risked fines and imprisonment for refusing vaccination for their children. We now refer to measles and polio vaccines and the prospect of AIDS vaccines as a matter of course, but a hundred years ago there was only one common human vaccine – that for smallpox – introduced in 1798 by Edward Jenner (1749-1823). In 1967 smallpox was targeted for eradication, an achievement officially certified in 1980. The surviving stocks of the smallpox virus are scheduled for destruction this year.