30 Nov:
Let’s Stop Smallpox

On 30th November, 1803 a surgeon called Dr Francisco Javier de Balmis left Spain at the head of the world’s first ever international public health expedition. 

His ship was bound for the New World, supplied with smallpox vaccines. But the vaccines weren’t in syringes or in vials, they were inside the 22 orphans who were on the ship with him.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly look into how the first smallpox vaccines worked; revisit how Javier de Balmis’s unusual approach helped eradicate the disease; and discuss whether popping pustules is better than inhaling scabs… 

Further Reading:

• ‘Exhibition tells story of Spanish children used as vaccine ‘fridges’ in 1803’ (The Guardian, 2021): https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/27/spanish-museum-celebrates-pioneer-who-took-smallpox-vaccine-to-colonies 

• ‘Balmis Expedition: How Orphans Took The Smallpox Vaccine Around The World’ (Amusing Planet, 2021): https://www.amusingplanet.com/2020/12/balmis-expedition-how-orphans-took.html 

• ‘22 Orphans Gave Up Everything to Distribute the World’s First Vaccine’ (Atlantic, 2021): https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2021/01/orphans-smallpox-vaccine-distribution/617646/ 

• ‘What Was A Horrible Way Of Transporting Smallpox Vaccine?’ (QI, 2017):


#1800s #Americas #Medicine #Strange