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Smallpox: A Vaccine Myth?


Louize Small

21st Century Wire

If we dare to express doubt about vaccine efficacy, or raise concerns for safety, we are sharply rebutted and reminded of smallpox as a solid testament to the power of immunisation to combat disease.

For generations, we have been conditioned to believe that smallpox is a highly contagious, indiscriminate, and deadly virus — that it killed many millions worldwide, and that we were only saved from its ghastly ravages by the development of vaccinations. However, upon closer examination, this popular narrative is belied by the facts and historical reporting. What is commonly assumed as settled history may be the result of modern medical propaganda.

There is another story: that vaccines did not eradicate smallpox, but actually made the problem worse. Like many other diseases, cases were already decreasing by the time vaccinations were introduced, but then began to rise again with the rollout of mass immunisation. Smallpox was at its peak during the 1700s, though it was often confused and conflated with other illnesses with similar symptoms, including chicken pox, measles, shingles, scarlet fever, and secondary syphilis.

In modern times it has become a somewhat fabled disease, but in days gone by it was regarded as a lethal, everyday scourge that you would be considered lucky to avoid. Anxiously accepted as an unpleasant part of life, some chose to purposefully infect themselves to get it over with, or as an attempt to reduce intensity of symptoms. This ‘arm-to-arm’ (or up the nose) transfer of a biological sample was known as variolation and involved matter from an infected pustule being blown up the nose or pricked into the skin of the recipient. It was a risky procedure because there was always a chance of catching some other infection or disease, which could also lead to death.

In 1796, historical golden boy, Edward Jenner, often referred to as “the father of immunology,” began experimenting on cows after hearing a local farmer had apparently gained smallpox immunity by inoculating himself with cowpox secretions. Jenner hypothesised that because cows didn’t carry the same transmissible diseases as humans they would be safer to use as donors for the inoculation procedure. He quickly began testing the method.

Eight-year-old James Phipps was one of the first to be immunised by Jenner; by the time he died at the age of 20 he had been vaccinated over 20 times. Jenner also tested the vaccine on his own son, who became crippled and died at 21. Both men died of tuberculosis, which some researchers attribute to the smallpox vaccine (Eleanor McBean, The Poisoned Needle).

SEE ALSO: Bill Gates is Ready to Capitalize on ‘The Next Pandemic’

Though he was a keen pupil of esteemed surgeon John Hunter, Jenner sat no examinations and purchased a £15 medical degree from St. Andrews University only after he had been practicing for twenty years. His opponents considered him vain, petulant, crafty, and greedy — a ‘self-deluded quack’ who omitted vital information and denounced his own findings only to reassert them when it suited him.Nevertheless, he managed to persuade the influential elites of his convictions and received a £30,000 grant from parliament (roughly £3 million in today’s money) to continue his work.

The Vaccination Act of 1853 made it compulsory for all babies under the age of three months to be vaccinated in England. Before this, the two-year death rate from the disease was 2,000, whereas eighteen years later, during the pandemic of 1871, it had reached 44,800. It is estimated that 90% of those who fell ill had been vaccinated.

Opposition to vaccination grew stronger, as the situation got worse, not better. Leicester was an important hub of activism through anti-vaccination leagues and societies formed throughout the country. High-profile campaigners and local guardians defended the rights of citizens and communities stood together to fight government tyranny. Regular protests took place and dedicated teams produced and distributed pamphlets and flyers with titles such as:Vaccination: Its Fallacies and Evils, Vaccination: a Curse, and Horrors of Vaccination.

Huge numbers of people across the land worried that the vaccine was unsafe and unproven. Parents were fined and thrown in prison for refusing to immunise their children, but their commitment to the cause didn’t waver. Through fierce, persistent, and active opposition, parliament eventually passed an act in 1898 that removed penalties and allowed parents to choose whether to have their children vaccinated.

Alfred Russell Wallace, a naturalist and biologist, charted European deaths from smallpox and the vaccine and reported that:

The vaccine has actually increased susceptibility to the disease. The conclusion is in every case the same: that vaccination is a gigantic delusion; that it has never saved a single life; but that it has been the cause of so much disease, so many deaths, such a vast amount of utterly needless and altogether undeserved suffering, that it will be classed by the coming generation among the greatest errors of an ignorant and prejudiced age, and its penal enforcement the foulest blot on the generally beneficent course of legislation during our century.”

The real problem with smallpox was filth and lack of hygiene. Sir Edwin Chadwick, a social reformer, toured populous working class areas of England and produced the 1842 Sanitary Report, which compelled councils to provide better facilities. He said:

Smallpox, typhus, and other fevers occur in common conditions of foul air, stagnant putrefaction, bad house drainage, sewers of deposit, excrement sodden sites, filthy street surfaces, impure water, and overcrowding, and the entire removal of such conditions is the effectual preventive of diseases.”

The construction of London’s sewers, which began in 1766, was completed by the mid-1860s, and sanitation and health throughout the country continued to improve with the introduction of the Public Health Act in 1875, which laid out detailed plans for more effective drainage, clearance of waste and rubbish, and regular maintenance of sewers.

Natural hygienist and physician Dr. Russell T. Trall considered smallpox, essentially … not a dangerous disease’, and Joel Uritsky, director of the National Immunization Program and Early Smallpox Response and Planning at the CDC, stated more recently that, “Smallpox has a slow transmission and is not highly contagious.”

H Valentine Knaggs, a physician and naturopath, somewhat radically claimed that smallpox was a beneficent disease: a healing crisis. He said:

The body is ridding itself of toxins. Medical intervention interferes with the process. Smallpox is an outbreak of carbuncles, simultaneously, all over the body. In a natural world, those who survived would be healthy, full of vitality and have great immunity from future disease.”

In her eponymous essay on smallpox, Dr. Vivian Virginia Vetrano writes:

If hygienic care had been resorted to in the beginning of smallpox … no complications would have occurred and there would rarely be a genuine pustule.’

Back in those days patients were kept in bed, in warm rooms, with dirty blankets and closed windows. Doctors applied gauze that had been soaked in corrosive mercuric chloride or carbolic acid and tightly bound the dressings; white blood cells were destroyed; the pus couldn’t escape; toxicity increased and a second fever inevitably followed.

It would seem that medical intervention did not eradicate the disease but rather aggravated it. A doctor at the time remarked:

“As it is palpable to all the world how fatal smallpox proves to many of all ages, so it is clear to me from all the observations that I can possibly make, that if no mischief be done, either by physician or nurse, it is the most safe and slight of all diseases.”

As is often the case, a deeper look at history raises important questions, ones which may challenge many present-day assumptions regarding medicine and science.

***
Sanitation Vs. Vaccination – The Origin of Smallpox’ by Walter S. Hadwen, M.D.

Dr. Sherri Tenpenny’s ‘Report of the CDC’s Public Forum on Smallpox’ at vaclib.org (8th June 2002).

Vivian Virginia Vetrano’s ‘Smallpox’.

Alfred Russel Wallace’s ‘Summary of the Proofs that Vaccination does not Prevent Smallpox but Really Increases it.’

A previous version of this article was published The Light newspaper, Issue 10 (2021).

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