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.

Drawing accompanying text in Book XII of the 16th-century Florentine Codex (compiled 1540–1585), showing Nahuas of conquest-era central Mexico with smallpox.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.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email digital@historytoday.com if you have any problems.

 

X

Get Miscellanies, our free weekly long read, in your inbox every week