March 1, 2021

The vaccine that changed the world


Did you know that Spain launched the first international health expedition in history? Its manager was an Alicante, Dr. Francisco Javier de Balmis and his adventure is linked to the smallpox vaccine.
Josep Pebble

An article in the medical journal The Lancet, published in 1998, in which the triple vaccine with the autism development was the trigger for the emergence of the controversial anti-vaccine movement.

In 2004 the author of the work was sued in England and has prohibited to practice medicine permanently. It’s no good because, today, many parents continue to opt for not vaccinate your children to “protect” them from this disease assuming others serious risks For the health of your little ones.

Resistance to vaccines – and not to antibodies but to people – is not new. It goes back to the 18th century when Edward Jenner developed the first vaccine against one of the deadliest pests in history: the smallpox.

At present it is difficult for us to assume the scourge that represented epidemics in the past. The Black Death, without going any further, he took the grave to 25 million people only in Europe and between 40 and 60 million in Africa and Asia so the vaccine development supposes a inflection point in the history of mankind.

Jenner was the son of the vicar of Berkeley, a small rural town in the county of Gloucester, in England. During his childhood he suffered smallpox, an infectious disease caused by a virus that is spread through saliva When you cough, talk or sneeze. The illness He left his mark on the little one Edward so decided to devote himself to medicine and actively fight against it.

During the 1790s, Jenner thoroughly investigated the disease. He knew the variolization, of Lord Montagu It turned out that his wife and brother-in-law suffered smallpox in Istanbul in 1716. The man died but she survived disfigured. He discovered that his Turkish friends were infected deliberately with sick pus of smallpox and after suffering a very mild access to the disease were immunized. Lady Montagu thought it could be a first step to prevent epidemics but doctors and ecclesiastics strongly opposed. In spite of everything, the kings of Denmark, those of Sweden, the Dukes of Parma or Tuscany and even Tsarina Catherine II were inoculated to prevent smallpox.

Eighteenth-century monarchs and aristocrats inoculated pus from smallpox sufferers to immunize

As a rural doctor, however, Jenner thoroughly investigated the cow pox and to the people who milked them. In fact, it turned out that the farmers who brushed the pustules of the udders of sick cows with their hands did not contract smallpox when an epidemic arrived.

In this way, Jenner decided extract pus from the udders of the cows and be the inoculated his gardener’s son. Six weeks then he injected human smallpox and had no effect on young James Phillips. He repeated the experiment with 22 other people and voilà! He had got the first vaccine ever.

As happened to Lady Montagu with her varolization, Jenner strong rejection reactions since its introduction in the mid-nineteenth century. One was created Anti-Vaccination Society in the United States because they feared its adverse effects. The Church, on the other hand, also opposed it because they considered the anti-Christian vaccine to come from an animal.

María Pita was chartered for the expedition. He left La Coruña in 1803 (engraving by Francisco Pérez)

Carlos IV carried out the first international health expedition in history

In Spain the vaccination arrived in 1800. Three years later, King Charles IV boosted the Royal Philanthropic Expedition of the Vaccine to extend the vaccine to the entire Spanish empire from America, the Philippines and Macao. The person responsible for this campaign was the doctor Francisco Javier from Balmis. Is “Philanthropic expedition”Is considered the first international health expedition in history. On the subject of it, the creator of the vaccine left written: “I cannot imagine that the annals of history provide us with an example of philanthropy as noble and as broad as this one.”

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