Smallpox and Vaccination
BEFORE the introduction of vaccination, smallpox was the worst scourge in existence. It was conservatively estimated that in Europe alone over two hundred thousand died each year from it, and that great numbers were left blind or otherwise maimed for life. It was a disease of childhood, and few attained to adult life without having had it. The protective influence of vaccination was first made known in 1798, and more or less extensively adopted during the next few years. Immediately following this there was a sudden decrease in the extent and mortality of the disease. This has often been credited to the improved sanitary conditions; but the fact that other contagious diseases, and especially filth diseases, decreased only in a very limited degree, proves this ground to be not well taken. Indeed, in cities where the growth was large and sanitary conditions worse, the mortality from smallpox decreased in the same ratio as in places where better sanitation prevailed.
Fortunately, careful records were kept in various countries, and from these it is easy to prove the effect of vaccination.
In Sweden, during the twenty-eight years preceding vaccination, 2,050 died annually from smallpox in every million population; during the forty years following vaccination, only 158 per million. In Prague, for the seven years before vaccination, one twelfth of the total deaths were from smallpox; during the thirty- five years after, the ratio was only i to 457. In Copenhagen, for fifty years before vaccination, the smallpox death-rate was 3,128, and for the fifty years after, 286. In Berlin, for twenty-four years before, the smallpox death-rate was 3,422, and for the next forty years only 176.
Figures might be multiplied, but it is useless, for the experience of almost all physicians and all hospitals proves the protecting power of vaccination. That the protection in all cases extends throughout a long life is not claimed, but even if later in life the disease is contracted, it is much lighter, and is seldom fatal. Every one, however, should be revaccinated, when the protection is almost perfect.
The danger attending the operation is very small, and when compared with the danger attending the disease, sinks into insignificance.—Bulletin, Cal. State Board of Health.