History Lesson From TJ and Immunization

Finally we have a covid vaccine. I am amazed at the kick back from the Anti Vaxxers seeing it as an assault on our Freedoms. I’m a scientist but educated in Jesuit University where History (among other things) were part of every course of study. I learned early that were it NOT for inoculation, those of us in the USA would not have the freedom we enjoy today.

Often this time of Year we are reminded of Valley Forge during the revolutionary war. Far more significant was the Siege of Boston. Following the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord in April, 1775 that began the American Revolution, the British Army Boston. The city was soon surrounded by American militia For two months, both armies consolidated their forces and constructed defenses; resulting in the Battle of Bunker Hill, but they were ultimately forced to return to Boston with heavy casualties.

On July 2nd, George Washington arrived from Philadelphia and took command of the American forces, now officially the Continental Army. The winter was hard on both armies but the siege continued. Compounding the Difficulties was an ongoing PANDEMIC. Smallpox was the culprit and affected 17% of the Continental Army at any given time with a greater than 25% death Rate. and infection rates were growing putting every soldier at risk. Had the trend continued a 25% casualty rate would have ended the War and our Chance for “Freedom”

In a very controversial move, Washington ordered a series of measures to provide “Social Distancing” The most controversial was the prohibition of soldiers congregating at a nearby pond where they bathed, fished and generally Hung out. He also restricted soldiers to their immediate group and set up a special Quarantine Camp for those exposed and/or infected These changes made some difference but not enough.

Smallpox had previously run rampant in England in previous years. The British force as a result had developed what we now call Herd Immunity as many were exposed as children where the disease was less virulent (but still deadly). So while the American force were growing continuously weaker, the British were maintaining their strength. British commanders knowing this went so far as to send infected to infiltrate the Continental Forces and spread the disease (and we think germ warfare is something new.)

Washington needed a solution and fast. If you think Vaccines are controversial today, it was nothing compared to this period. There was a brutal procedure for inoculation available called variolation. It involved the surgeon of the day making an incision and literally pouring live virus from the Pox Pus into it. The patient then developed Smallpox. Most of the time it was a mild form but had fatality rates of about 5%. The Continental Congress had made ALL inoculation illegal as a result.

Washington with his back to the wall faced an impossible situation. With great reluctance he ordered the inoculation of all troops. This was a TOP SECRET operation not only from Congress but the British. Amazingly it worked and with a less than 1% complication rate. By March the disease was nearly eradicated. and the situation was under control (the Congress came around lifting its ban on inoculation) The Assault on Boston began. The British were driven from Boston and the war moved out of New England.

When I hear how Vaccination, social distancing, and quarantine is an assault on our Freedom I can only recall that its is only because of Vaccination, social distancing, and quarantine that we have our freedom. There is a lesson there if we pay attention.