On this day (May 14) 1796, Edward Jenner, an English doctor, discovers that the lymphatic serum of cows infected with a disease called cowpox immunizes against the terrible disease smallpox, whose mortality reaches 30%.
Edward Jenner who orphaned very soon. At age 8 there is an outbreak of smallpox in the population. his family decides to practice the only method they knew as a defense against a disease that, in principle, could only affect you once in your life; variolation (This technique consists of making an incision in the skin of the individual and putting the powder of the smallpox scabs on it, then the incision was closed and the person was left isolated from the others until the disease attacked him or her mildly , until its recovery)
Without a real basis of scientific knowledge, and ignoring the principles of antisepsis, variolation was surrounded by a certain mystery and each doctor or pharmacist used his own method. Edward Jenner and his companions had their inoculations performed by Mr. Holborn, an apothecary from the nearby town of Wotton-under-Edge. At inoculation children received a cut to bleeding on one arm where Mr. Holborn applied the purulent contents of a smallpox sufferer's gallbladder, then covered the wound with a clean bandage. Those who received the inoculation had to be isolated because they had the disease and could transmit it to other people who had not suffered from it. Edward and his companions are isolated in a smelly stable, with little lighting and without ventilation, where they had to eat, sleep and relieve themselves for forty days (quarantine) a terrible experience that Edward, like the other inoculated, will not easily forget. .
Smallpox was a disease that had become a terrible epidemic.
In 1768, the English physician John Fewster had realized that previous infection with cowpox made a person immune to smallpox.
In the years following 1770, at least five researchers in England and Germany (Sevel, Jensen, Jesty in 1774, Rendell, and Plett in 1791) successfully tested a smallpox vaccine in humans.
But it wasn't until Jenner's work that the procedure became widely understood. Jenner may have known the procedure used by Jesty and the success achieved.
On May 14, 1796, Jenner tested his hypothesis by inoculating James Phipps , an eight-year-old son of Jenner's gardener. He scraped the pus from the smallpox blisters on the hands of Sarah Nelmes, a milkmaid infected with cowpox by a cow named Blossom (whose skin now hangs on the wall of the St. George's Medical School Library, Tooting). Phipps was the seventeenth case described in Jenner's first article on vaccination.
After the treatment with James Phipps gave a favorable result he began to use it with other people, in the face of strong opposition from other doctors. People believed that if they were vaccinated they would grow bovine appendages on their bodies and a satire called "The cow pock" (1802) was made about this.
For the history of France, the well-deserved recognition arrives when Napoleon gives the order to vaccinate his entire troop, in the year 1805. Later, the Countess of Berkeley and Lady Duce have their children vaccinated, making the English nobility imitate them.Recognition had come two years earlier with the organization in Spain of the Royal Philanthropic Vaccine Expedition (directed by the doctor Francisco Javier Balmis, 1753) which sponsored the first worldwide vaccination expedition, covering his overseas empire (Spanish America and the Philippines) Jenner wrote: "I cannot imagine that the annals of history contain an example of philanthropy as noble and extensive as this."
Donald Hopkins (1941, American doctor who directed the Smallpox Eradication and Measles Control Program in Sierra Leone) notes that: "Jenner's main contribution was not that he inoculated some people with the vaccine, but later showed that they were immune to smallpox."
Out of curiosity, in 1979, the World Health Organization declared smallpox an eradicated disease. This was the result of coordinated global public health efforts, where vaccination was a essential component.