The Role of Smallpox Vaccination in Mortality Decline in the Great Britain through Eradicating the Disease

Late Dr. Gryzanovski noted the strange fascination in numbers: “Not only the mathematician, and the mystic philosopher, but the artists,

The Role of Smallpox Vaccination in Mortality Decline in the Great Britain through Eradicating the Disease



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e paid due to a large unvaccinated population, it was one of the cities that suffered least from several epidemics of 19th century (NAVL, 1910).

Legal Side of the Story

In 1840 British Parliament passed “An Act to Extend the Practice of Vaccination”, by which smallpox inoculation that was used prior to smallpox vaccination to prevent this disease was made a penal offence. Since the practice of smallpox inoculation dates back to 1721, it turns out this life-destroying practice lasted for a hundred and twenty years!

The first compulsory vaccination law was Lord Lytteltons Act in 1853. Lord Lyttelton is quoted to have said, “It is unnecessary for me to speak of the certainty of vaccination as a preventive of small-pox, that being a point on which the whole medical profession have arrived at complete unanimity”. Despite a growing number of post-vaccinal morbidity and mortality cases (Krause, 1958), Britain passed another landmark vaccine law in 1867 - the vaccination law of England, which at once was put in force (Milnes, 1897).

Stakes Behind the Vaccination

Often, if not always, there are huge financial interests behind political goals. Due to mostly qualitative information concerning the vaccination in the stated period, and inexistence of reliable statistical body for the most part of it, “There is no means of accurately gauging the amount paid for treating diseases subsidiary, or arising from vaccination” (NAVL, 1910). However, the below brief table for Ireland will illustrate that substantial finances were committed to the vaccination practice.

Table 1. Annual Reports for the Local Government Board for Ireland:

Year Ending 31 MarchFees paid to Medical OfficersOther Expenses in carrying out Vaccination Acts1905Ј 16, 196 183Ј 1, 893 9 4190610, 168 1781, 857 1431907 8, 430 4 6 1, 973 17 51908 8, 061 140 1, 938 1811909 8, 006 0 0 1, 963 0 0Fascination vs. Repulsion with Numbers

Among all the economists of the history, I admire Adam Smith most of all. Adam Smiths works have been inspiring many economists throughout centuries, and many scholars cant help mentioning him in the course of their work. His pen did leave few stones unturned, and each time with an economic point of view. Although most of the modern terms were inexistent at his time, he described things his own way and often cut to the core of the matter. I had to refer to his famous book, Wealth of Nations, for many times in the past, and the most recent review of it gave me a term that has become an anchor for my paper. That term is “Political Arithmetick”. Adam Smith remarkably acknowledged I have no great faith in political arithmetick (Smith, Wealth of Nations, I, p.534). In a 1785 letter written from Edinburgh Custom House to George Chalmers, Smith reiterated his sentiment: You know that I have little faith in Political Arithmetic (Smith, Correspondence, p. 288). There were serious limitations in gathering and analyzing quantitative information during the early introduction of vaccination to England, and no wonder many, like Smith, put little faith in numbers.

Davenant gave a good definition to the term Political Arithmetick: “By Political Arithmetick, we mean the art of reasoning by figures, upon things relating to government.” (Hoppit, 1996) The golden age of political arithmetick began in 1662 with the publication of John Graunts book “Natural and Political Observations upon the Bills of Mortality”, and passing with the death of its key proponents, Gregory King in 1712 and Charles Davenant in 1714. The term itself was devised by Sir William Petty in about 1671 or 1672. The use of statistics in policy debate became more prevalent at around the same period. It is up to ones imagination to count the areas which were influenced by Political Arithmetick social order, military matters, religious affiliation, economic performance, public finances, to name a few. Furthermore, Medical Arithmetick was being enthusiastically championed by 1780s, though its origins are rooted in much earlier periods. As another author put it Without medical arithmetic it is impossible to reach the “grandeur of generality”, the sublime of medical divination.(Hoppit, 1996).

Almost a century after Adam Smiths remark about unreliability of political arithmetick, a medical man, Dr. Guy, was presenting a paper on smallpox and vaccination at The Royal Statistical Society, and to the question whether vaccination were a preventive of smallpox, he answered that “there can be no answer except such as is couched in the language of figures” (Greenwood, 1930). An amazing contrast in faith in numbers, isnt it? Where does it come from? The thing is proponents of vaccination then and now had no other way of proving the efficacy of vaccines, smallpox vaccine in particular, than talking in the language of numbers. Even though it may sound very odd, medicine had little role in proving efficacy of vaccines. The thing is vaccines are injected mostly to people in near-perfect health, and it would be very unethical to expose control groups to the dreadful diseases in order to prove the efficacy of vaccines. The proponents of vaccination, people with strong ties in the governments and pharmaceutical-medical industry, have been trying to prove the efficacy of vaccines through statistical study of population mortality and morbidity, often making unbelievable claims. Having reviewed dozens of historical materials about smallpox vaccination, I saw an obvious “play with numbers” in order to reach “politically correct” conclusions. Medical historians McKeown and Record stated that 'the data (on mortality and natality) are so treacherous that they can be interpreted to fit any hypothesis' (Razzell, 1965).

Few tables below will illustrate this point:

Table 2. Mean Annual Rate of Mortality per million from smallpox at all ages in three groups of years, selected with reference to optional and obligatory vaccination (Milnes, 1897).

Dr. Ogles DivisionThe Historical DivisionPeriodMortalityPeriod DifferenceMortalityPeriod1) Vaccination optional, 1847-5330582, or 26.8%117, or 38.8%3051) Vaccination optional, 1847-532) Vaccination obligatory, but not efficiently enforced, 1854-71223

109, or 48.8%

39, or 20.7%1882) Vaccination obligatory, but not efficiently enforced, 1854-673) Vaccination obligatory, but more efficiently enforced, 1872-871141493) Vaccination obligatory, but more efficiently enforced, 1868-87Fascinatingly, all other infectious diseases, without any exception, decreased during this period, contributing to the falling mortality rates in Britain, a lot of them by larger percentage than smallpox. Moreover, except smallpox, none of those infectious diseases were confronted by any inoculations and/or vaccines. The below table will better illustrate the point:

Table 3. Mortality compared, Smallpox with Fever Group (Typhus, Typhoid, and Simple and Ill-defined) for the Two periods, 1838-42 and 1871-75 (Milnes,1897).

Infectious Diseases1838-421871-75Decrease in %Smallpox57641426.4Fever105357543.4

Table 4. Mortality of Smallpox and Cholera compared, on Average per million, for the Twelve Years 1838-42 and 1847-53, and the Forty-two years 1854-1895 (Milnes, 1897).

Infectious Diseases1838-42 & 1847-531854-95Decrease in %Smallpox40812669Cholera3206978

Hence, with in regards to the above two tables, it becomes clear that there is no ground to attribute decline in smallpox mortality to smallpox vaccination, because if that were the case, smallpox must have declined by far larger percentage compared to other infectious diseases. This is not a conclusion, which has been arrived at recently, on contrary this fact has been suppressed for political purposes, and has been known from the very beginning.

Late Dr. Gryzanovski noted the strange fascination in numbers: “Not only the mathematician, and the mystic philosopher, but the artists, the physicist, the economist, all feel it alike, and even those who are unable to comprehend the real nature of numbers, have an instinctive appreciation of their conclusiveness”. Below is a good example how numbers can be misleading if used improperly. During an agitation in favor of compulsory vaccination in Germany at the end of 19th century, the learned Professor Kussmaul went into great details by citing the occurrence of 3330 cases of smallpox in Marseilles in 1828. According to the statistics that was presented by him to prove the necessity of mass vaccination, 2289 of the 3330 persons had not been vaccinated. Out of these unvaccinated folks 420 or 18.3 per cent died, whereas the mortality among the vaccinated 1041 was only 17 or 1.7 per cent. At first sight, it seems obvious that vaccinated folks were luckier and through saved lives smallpox vaccination caused an invaluable amount of economic gain, but that is only if we presume that data is correct and calculation is without any fault. But now we have Dr. Lorinsers data on Marseilles population in 1828, and proportion of vaccinated, 133000 and 33000 respectively. And if now we recalculate using the correct denominators, we come up with a completely different picture. In fact, it is the opposite of the initial finding that supported efficacy of the smallpox vaccination. Mortality level among the vaccinated comes up to be 32 per thousand, while mortality level among the unvaccinated is 23 per thousand. This recalculation of the data at hand not only disproves the initial claims of the efficacy of smallpox vaccination, but also shows that it was dangerous. So who is right in this case? Maybe both mens conclusions were wrong, but Dr. Lorinsers statistical methods seem to make more sense. (Gryzanovski, 1906).

Hence, the role of smallpox vaccination in eradicating the disea

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