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.
Too much hope is being pinned on the vaccine alone to get us out of the current pandemic. But ‘low-tech’ solutions are needed, too.
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.
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.
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 smallpox vaccination used calf lymph, which was unacceptable to vegetarians and anti-vivisectionists who were growing in number from the mid 19th century.
Smallpox is the only disease to be eradicated through sustained human effort. Many of these volunteers were women who defied social norms to save lives in India.
Polio for years has been close to becoming eradicated, with the entire continent of Africa going two years without a reported case – until early August. Here’s why eradication is hard but attainable.