Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Maybe we should take a page from George Washington's Vaccine for Smallpox

A year and a half. That's what the experts are saying to get a vaccine. I don't think so. Not now. Scientists want safe clinical trials followed by a year of leisurely testing. Maybe they should take a page out of George Washington's remedy for smallpox in 1779. Smallpox was the killer of their time. Washington had the disease when he was seventeen and had developed immunity but his army was dying in droves. He had to do something or as he wrote a friend, his army would soon be wiped out. So he implemented his  own vaccine program.

Smallpox produces a small pustule full of puss on the skin. Washington had doctors begin inoculating his entire army against the disease by a simple but ingenious method. An infected patient would have his pustules cut and the puss drawn off. Then a cut was made in a healthy solider and a small amount of puss rubbed into the wound. This triggered an immune response in the healthy solider as he became sick. Washington had beds and beds of sick soldiers who had mild cases of smallpox from the puss but who would then recover with immunity.

He had the entire army go through this crude inoculation and basically stopped the disease. It was the fist mass inoculation in America and it worked. We are now faced with a disease where we need a vaccine asap. Our ability to think out of the box and bring this vaccine to people will be put to the test. George Washington was not going to sit by and watch people die. Neither should we. 

Books by William Hazelgrove