Smallpox Vaccination History

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Over the centuries, the health care system in Europe has underwent significant modification. From a “simple system of home remedies and itinerant doctors with little training”, the health care system in Europe has evolved to a complex system that is fostered by “medical science and technology and the authority of medical professionals”. Additionally, emphasis on aspects like epidemiology and prevention were also observed. There were several factors which helped stage for this evolution of modern health care system. In particular was the ground-breaking discovery of smallpox vaccination by Edward Jenner in 1796 which eventually acted as a basis for present-day immunology. In addition to bringing the world into an epoch of modern vaccine research,…show more content…
While there were others who discovered vaccination before Jenner, such as Benjamin Jesty (1737–1816), Jenner’s research was the “first scientific attempt to control an infectious disease by the deliberate use of vaccination”. Furthermore, Jenner was ardent in his investigation and was persistent in publicising his vaccine. For instance, Figure 1 below shows an extract from a letter written by Jenner himself on the instructions for vaccine inoculation targeted to those who were interested in the smallpox vaccine. By 1800, his effort led to a widespread use of vaccination in majority of the European countries. This new knowledge on inhibition of the spread of contagious diseases was a reason that led to the ideology that the “right of the individual to contract and spread infectious disease should be suspended”. Thus, the result was the establishment of compulsory health laws which, as rationalized by activists like Henry Rumsey and John Simon, were for the interest of the population’s well-being. The first federal law relating to preventive health care measures was the 1813 Vaccine Act in the United States which also led to the establishment of the National Vaccine Agency. Others include the 1840 Poor Law medical services as well as the new Vaccination Act of 1867 in Britain. Although the laws were successful, like many other measures, it had faced oppositions. The most noteworthy opposing organization was the Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League formed in 1867, after the new Vaccination Act was implemented. Mainly attacking through their journal, The Vaccination Inquirer, these oppositions raised disagreements and doubts of the effectiveness of the vaccination, and most importantly, they promoted their discontentment and resistance against the government’s involvement in public

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