It was May 2019 when the British Dr Jenner's House Museum published on its social media, an iconic frame of Allan Warner. Of a doctor who worked in Leicester in 1901 and played a crucial role in the spread of smallpox vaccines.
Two years later, and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, these frames are becoming popular again for the same reasons they were 120 years ago.
The photographs are held by the Jenner Trust as acquired from the family of Dr Allan Warner and belong to "Dr Jenner's House, Museum and Garden". The frames are genuine, while the fate of the sick child has never been known.
Dr Allan Warner intended to "stir up" the skeptics of his day. So he put two 13-year-old boys side by side, one infected with smallpox, the other vaccinated, in a Leicester quarantine hospital. This photo was used in the classes of Warner and his associates, and from the lectures passed into the press of the time. It is now listed as the "Lester method".
It is noted that at the end of the 19th century, the city of Leicester experienced large waves of anti-vaccinationists. As leicestermercury notes, at least 20,000 protesters had marched against vaccinations by burning vaccination certificates.
Overall Britain did not proceed to make vaccinations compulsory. Instead, it left the choice to the local regions. In 1869, the "Leicester anti-vaccination league" was formed which organized marches at regular intervals, against compulsory vaccinations and the preparations themselves. The dissemination of Warner's photographs is estimated to have played a large role in bending the resistance of those who reacted.
Recently, the city of Leicester has re-used the 1901 frames to show the importance of vaccinations, as new "waves" of anti-vaccinationists have appeared in the city in recent months.
Two Greeks behind the treatment of smallpox
But many years before we got to the first informal "campaign against anti-vaccinators", namely in 1714, a doctor of Greek origin, Emmanuel Timonis from Chios, was paving the way for dealing with the smallpox pandemic.
Timonis together with J. Woodward, based on his previous experience of dealing with the epidemic in Constantinople, published in 1714 in the 29th volume of the journal Philosophical Transactions the work under the title "An account or history of the procuring the small- pox by incision or innoculation as it has for some time been practiced at Constantinople".
At the same time, another doctor of Greek origin, Iakovos Pylarinos from Cephalonia, was publishing his own study in Venice. Both scientists stated that the administration of a small amount of infectious agent in the human body causes a sufficiently mild (and therefore safe) manifestation of the disease but also lifelong resistance to subsequent infections. This is how the idea of "blessing" was born.
Pylarinos in his study confesses that he initially had doubts about the effectiveness of the inoculation method because it was applied by the practical women of folk medicine. This method was applied in Greece and mainly in Thessaly, from where it spread to Constantinople.
As noted by D. AP. Karaberopoulos, the wife of the English ambassador in Constantinople, Lady Mary Worthley Montagu (1689-1762), helped spread the new method of smallpox prevention with the blessing, who also vaccinated her son. The method of Timonis and Pylarinos was also adopted in the USA, specifically in Boston in 1721.
The Ed. Jenner
In 1798, this vaccination was modified by Ed. Jenner (1749-1823), who instead of fluid from the blisters of sick people took fluid from the blisters of cows, with better protection rates.
In more detail, Jenner found that the vaccinia germ creates immunity to smallpox, with his first experiment being done in May 1796, on the eight-year-old James Phipps, who was the son of his gardener, with the father's consent.
So he inoculated James Phipps with the vaccinia germ. Little James contracted a very mild form of vaccinia. The following July, when the little boy had fully recovered, Jenner vaccinated him again, this time with regular smallpox virus. The little one did not get smallpox, so Jenner had confirmation of his theory.
Jenner did not hesitate to repeat the experiment on other children, including his 11-month-old son.
The doctor called the whole process vaccination (vaccination) from the name of the virus "variolae vaccinae", while he was also the first to use the term virus (virus). It goes without saying that the doctor's publications and experiments received very harsh criticism from the press of his time and from Cleros. In practice, vaccination was first used in the British army and navy, and then spread throughout England.
Jenner had built a small hospital next to his doctor's office and was vaccinating the world for free, while receiving financial support in 1807 by the British Indian community. Every day he gave 300 vaccinations for free, and after 18 months smallpox was reduced in England by 75%.
Antibodies started to be produced by the improved smallpox vaccine they now also provide protection against other forms of "orthopoxvirus", such as vaccinia, cowpox and monkeypox. Jenner's practice found wider application and thus he is officially considered the "father of vaccines".
Historically, the vaccine provided protection in 95% of vaccinated individuals. Maximum protection lasted 3-5 years from the time of vaccination and then decreased. In case of revaccination or protection lasted longer. Studies in Europe in the 1950s and 1960s showed that the death rate among those vaccinated 10 years ago and then exposed to the virus was 1.3%, 7% among those vaccinated 11-20 years ago, and 11 % among those vaccinated 20 or more years ago. Accordingly, 52% of the unvaccinated people who got sick died.
The practice of immunization against the virus was abandoned in the United States in 1972 and in most European countries in the early 1970s, after the disease was eradicated. During the 20th century, smallpox is estimated to have caused 300-500 million deaths.
It is worth noting that smallpox was the first form of biological warfare. The British "used" it during the siege of Fort Pitt during the French and Indian War (1754-1763) against France and their Native American allies. Accordingly, it was used by Americans against natives in the late 1780s, while as a disease it is considered the cause of death of a large number of Aztecs and natives of North America.
Instead of an epilogue, read the excellent thread by the Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at the Medical School of the University of Cyprus, Nicolas Dietis:
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