Children and parents lined up for polio vaccines outside a Syracuse, New York school in 1961.
Public health experts know that schools are likely sites for the spread of disease, and laws tying school attendance to vaccination go back to the 1800s.
Protests against mandates and quarantines get the Founding Fathers’ ideas wrong.
George Rose/Getty Images
The Founding Fathers were unrelenting in their commitment to the idea that circumstances can arise that require public officials to take actions abridging individual freedoms.
The first reading of the Declaration of Independence in Boston, July 18, 1776.
Tichnor Brothers Collection, Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth
In the summer of 1776, Boston offered smallpox inoculation to everyone and required those who declined to leave town or stay in their homes.
Edward Jenner vaccinating his son, held by Mrs Jenner; a maid rolls up her sleeve, a man stands outside holding a cow. Coloured engraving by C. Manigaud after E Hamman. The Wellcome Collection.
The major problem in Britain and elsewhere was complacency. The early success in suppressing smallpox, and indeed eliminating it in some places, led parents to neglect vaccination.
Visionary: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.
Jean-Étienne Liotard/Wikimedia Commons
Wortley Montagu popularised the Turkish practice of ‘variolation’, kickstarting the global battle against smallpox.
As a printer’s apprentice in 1721, Franklin had a front-row seat to the controversy around a new prevention technique.
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When Bostonians in 1721 faced a deadly smallpox outbreak, a new procedure called inoculation was found to help fend off the disease. Not everyone was won over, and newspapers fed the controversy.
Australia has a long history of incarceration of migrants, Indigenous people and those considered ‘enemies’ of the state. This has formed a ‘template’ for modern-day quarantine and detention policies.
We’ve gone from a novel virus to several COVID-19 vaccines in less than a year. Here’s what we’ve learned from earlier vaccines to allow this to happen.
History tells us that delays, administrative hurdles, messiness and complexity are the norm.
A 1975 stamp printed in St. Vincent shows U.S. presidents George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who were all vocally pro-inoculation and vaccination.
In the early years of the United States, several American presidents were in favour of public health inoculation and vaccination strategies.
Ever since a 1904 revolt against the smallpox vaccine, Brazil has run extremely successful vaccination programs.
Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
A 1904 revolt against mandatory smallpox inoculation taught Brazilian health officials a deadly lesson on how to vaccinate a skeptical public. Today President Bolsonaro seems to ignore that history.
The COVID-19 new normal might be here for quite some time.
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As ready as you are to be done with COVID-19, it’s not going anywhere soon. A historian of disease describes how once a pathogen emerges, it’s usually here to stay.
An 1801 etching of a dandified physician taking a lancet to a ‘dindonnade,’ a word signifying both ‘turkey’ and ‘hoax.’ It ridicules the smallpox vaccine, which takes fluid from an animal to insert into a human.
The history of anti-vaccination theories can help us understand how such claims capture a popular following. The same misinformation used against 19th century smallpox vaccine is still in use today.
A 19th-century engraving depicts the Angel of Death descending on Rome during the Antonine plague.
J.G. Levasseur/Wellcome Collection
Societies and cultures that seem ossified and entrenched can be completely upended by pandemics, which create openings for conquest, innovation and social change.
Virgin soil epidemics decimated Native American populations.
English physician and scientist, who was the pioneer of smallpox vaccine, Edward Jenner sees off the anti-vaccinators.
From protests to anti-vaccination propaganda, eliminating smallpox in the UK was not easy.
The federal government is fast-tracking some potential coronavirus vaccines currently in clinical trials.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
For a COVID-19 vaccine to stop the pandemic, a large percentage of the population will have to get vaccinated. A law professor explains how far government and employer vaccine mandates can legally go.
Caricature of vaccination scene at the Smallpox and Inoculation Hospital at St. Pancras Hospital in London, by James Giray, 1802.
Library of Congress
The success of the smallpox vaccine was far from guaranteed when Edward Jenner first published his treatise in late 18th century. A curator of the book talks about what we can learn from it today.
Today smallpox can only be found in deep freeze inside a few highly secured laboratories, like this one at the CDC in 1980.
The smallpox virus appears to have been with humanity for millennia before a global vaccination drive wiped it out. Current genome research suggests how smallpox spread and where it came from.
The Cow-Pock - or the Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation! (1802) by James Gillray.
The smallpox vaccination used calf lymph, which was unacceptable to vegetarians and anti-vivisectionists who were growing in number from the mid 19th century.