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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se in Britain seems to be exaggerated. The first medical tool in preventing smallpox disease, inoculation, was pronounced illegal after being carried out on mass level for more than 120 years. It is interesting to note that from the date of mandatory smallpox vaccination law in Britain in 1853 till the complete eradication of the disease in 1979, almost the same amount of time had passed as in the previous case. One thing is different though this time, with vaccination, medical men decided to end smallpox vaccination on a good note… After 1979, smallpox cases were spotted in a few LDCs (less developed countries) of the world, but the WHO did not re-initiate mass smallpox vaccination.

Conclusions and Directions for A Future Research

Without a doubt, eradication of smallpox disease was one of the greatest achievements of mankind. It must be emphasized that this was the merit of combined forces of various factors, such as economic, sanitary, technological, and educational. Arduous endeavors of certain groups to continue with inoculation long after it had been banned in 1840 were mentioned (NAVL, 1910), and this leads one to think that these groups probably had huge economic and/or political interests at stake. Estimation of economic benefits derived from smallpox immunization, both inoculation and vaccination, would shed light on the special interests behind this practice. In case of inoculation that preceded vaccination, it seems to be a very low-cost (both start-up, and operations) and highly profitable field: all kinds of amateurs (from farmers to custom-officers) carried out inoculations throughout towns and villages, with little or no regulation; overseers of the poor paid for their parish to be inoculated. For instance, the statement that “many gentlemen paid for inoculation of the children of the poor in their own neighborhoods” does signal huge economic spending on inoculation, but does in no way quantify the amount (Razzel, 1965). The above description of smallpox inoculation resembles the current day Internet get-rich-instantly recipes, which also boast low-cost, huge potential markets, and little regulation.

Vaccination replaced the arsenal of medical profession against the infectious diseases, but little has changed. Many vaccine batches are found to be contaminated even during our days, and there is still no sure way to inspect their quality, few vaccine manufacturers work as a monopoly. Vaccine manufacturers and doctors who carry out the vaccination practice are legally freed from liability on any consequent damage caused by vaccines (NVIC.COM).

I was not able to economically compare the weight of smallpox vaccination compared to other forces, mainly not due to the lack of data on smallpox mortality or economic and other developments in Britain between 18th and 20th centuries, but due to impossibility to measure things with he same units. How would you compare sanitation, increased knowledge of safe food preparation, better economic standards of living, higher levels of vaccination, and lower mortality rates? How much is the worth of one human beings life? If just one child died after vaccination, and it turns out he was a potential new Einstein, how does that change economic calculations of losses due to post-vaccine mortality? I tried to avoid going deep into analyzing mortality rates alone, because it would become a simple body count, not economics. However, with little surprise, I discovered that among all the forces that are believed to have played role in eradicating smallpox, smallpox vaccination remains to be the most controversial to the date.

Список литературы

1. Helleiner, Karl. “The Vital Revolution Reconsidered”. The Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science, Vol. 23, No. 1. February 1957.

2. M. Greenwood. “The Vaccination Problem”. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Vol.93, No.2. 1930.

3. Scott, Susan. “The Dynamics of Smallpox Epidemics in Britain, 1550-1800”. Demography, Vol. 30, No. 3, August 1993.

4. Milnes, Alfred. “Statistics of Smallpox and Vaccination, with Special Reference to Age-incidence, Sex-incidence, and Sanitation”. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Vol. 60, No. 3. September, 1897.

5. Gryzanovski, Ernest. “On Collective Phenomena and the Scientific Value of Statistical Data”. Publications of the American Economic Association, 3rd Series, Vol. 7, No. 3. August 1906.

6. Encyclopedia Britannica online.

7. Krause, J. T. “Changes in English Fertility and Mortality, 1781-1850”. The Economic History Review, Vol. 11, No. 1. (1958).

8. The National Anti-Vaccination League. (NAVL) “For and Against Vaccination”. London, 1910.

9. National Vaccine Information Centre. NVIC.COM

10. World Health Organization: Smallpox Vaccination. WHO.ORG

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