Tag: Edward Jenner

What Did Thomas Jefferson Say About Vaccines?

A lot of folks are quoting the Founding Fathers these days when they talk about vaccines.

“Thomas Jefferson has a quote, he says ‘He who sacrifices Liberty for security deserves neither.’ And I think that’s really important and fundamentally true.”

Isaac Lindenberger

Wait, that quote sounds familiar.

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Benjamin Franklin

Sen. Rand Paul used it during the Senate hearing that featured Isaac’s brother Ethan Lindenberger. Only Rand Paul correctly attributed the quote to Benjamin Franklin, even though the quote doesn’t really mean what he thinks it means…

What Did Thomas Jefferson Say About Vaccines?

So what about Thomas Jefferson, did he have anything to say about vaccines?

“I have received a copy of the evidence at large respecting the discovery of the vaccine inoculation which you have been pleased to send me, and for which I return you my thanks. Having been among the early converts, in this part of the globe, to its efficiency, I took an early part in recommending it to my countrymen.  I avail myself of this occasion of rendering you a portion of the tribute of gratitude due to you from the whole human family.  Medicine has never before produced any single improvement of such utility.  Harvey’s discovery of the circulation of the blood was a beautiful addition to our knowledge of the animal economy, but on a review of the practice of medicine before and since that epoch, I do not see any great amelioration which has been derived from that discovery.  You have erased from the calendar of human afflictions one of its greatest.  Yours is the comfortable reflection that mankind can never forget that you have lived.  Future nations will know by history only that the loathsome small-pox has existed and by you has been extirpated.

Accept my fervent wishes for your health and happiness and assurances of the greatest respect and consideration.”

Thomas Jefferson

While anti-vaccine folks shouldn’t be invoking the name of Benjamin Franklin, they certainly shouldn’t be throwing Thomas Jefferson’s name around.

Not only did he support and praise Edward Jenner, Jefferson did his own smallpox vaccine trials!

What Did Thomas Jefferson Say About Vaccines?

What Is a Vaccine?

You know what a vaccine is, right?

The word vaccine comes from the vaccinia virus that was in the original smallpox vaccine.
The word vaccine comes from the vaccinia virus that was in the original smallpox vaccine.

The flu shot you get each year is a vaccine.

Vaccine: A product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease. Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but can also be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose.

Immunization: The Basics

The smallpox shot that Edward Jenner developed was a vaccine.

Vaccine Definitions

While that is an easy enough definition to understand, that there are many different types of vaccines does make it a little more complicated.

There are:

  • Live-attenuated vaccines – made from a weakened or attenuated form of a virus or bacteria
  • Inactivated vaccines – made from a killed form of virus or bacteria
  • Subunit, recombinant, polysaccharide, and conjugate vaccines – made from only specific pieces of a virus or bacteria
  • Toxoid vaccines – made to target a toxin that a bacteria makes and not the bacteria itself

And of course all of these types of vaccines work to produce immunity to specific diseases – vaccination.

Immunization: A process by which a person becomes protected against a disease through vaccination. This term is often used interchangeably with vaccination or inoculation.

Immunization: The Basics

What other definitions are important to know when you talk about vaccines?

  • active immunity – immunity that you get from having a disease (natural immunity) or getting a vaccine and making antibodies
  • adjuvant – a substance that helps boost your body’s immune response to a vaccine so that you can use a minimum amount of antigen, reducing side effects
  • antibodies – protective proteins that you make against antigens
  • antigens – specific substances (can be part of a virus or bacteria) that trigger an immune response
  • attenuation – a virus or bacteria that is made less potent, so that it can produce an immune response without causing disease
  • elimination – getting rid of a disease in a specific area
  • endemic – the baseline level of disease in an area
  • eradication – getting rid of a disease everywhere (smallpox)
  • epidemic – an increase in the number of cases of a disease over a large geographic area
  • herd immunity – when enough people in a community are protected and have immunity, so that disease is unlikely to spread
  • immunity – protection against a disease
  • incubation period – how long it takes to develop symptoms after you are exposed to a disease
  • outbreak – an increase in the number of cases of a disease over a small geographic area
  • pandemic – an increase in the number of cases of a disease over several countries or continents
  • passive immunity – temporary immunity that you get after being given antibodies, either via a shot of immunoglobulin or a mother’s antibodies are transferred to her baby through her placenta
  • placebo – classically defined as “a comparator in a vaccine trial that does not include the antigen under study”
  • quarantine – isolating someone so that they don’t get others sick
  • titer – an antibody count that can often be used to predict immunity

Got all of that?

So what about variolation, the process that was used before Jenner developed his smallpox vaccine? Was that also a vaccine?

It did produce immunity to smallpox, which is the basic definition of a vaccine, but still, variolation is typically concerned an immunization technique and not a vaccine.

More on Vaccine Definitions

Why Aren’t Vaccines Mentioned in the Bible?

It shouldn’t be a surprise that vaccines aren’t mentioned in the Bible.

It’s the same reason antibiotics, airplanes, and pasteurization aren’t mentioned – they weren’t invented yet.

Remember, Edward Jenner first vaccinated James Phipps with his smallpox vaccine in 1796.

Why Aren’t Vaccines Mentioned in the Bible?

But even before the smallpox vaccine was developed by Edward Jenner in 1796, we had variolation. While we have evidence of smallpox infections as early as the 2nd millennium BC, the earliest use of variolation is from the 10th to 18th Century, well after the Bible was written.

Why would vaccines be mentioned in the Bible?
Why would vaccines be mentioned in the Bible?

Still, it shouldn’t be a surprise that some anti-vaccine folks use the Bible and religion against vaccines.

“I just decided to just google what the bible says about vaccines. There’s nothing in the bible that talks about vaccines. I just want you to think about that. So if God knew in the future that he was going to create these amazing things that were going to be the best scientific advancements, like oh, my God, they’re so great, why isn’t there anything, any inkling of talk about these things called vaccinations coming into being later to save people? If that was really God’s plan and they’re so amazing, then why isn’t it in there at all? Maybe there’s a chapter where they talk about something like an injection, like this health injection, right? Like, why didn’t God talk about that if he knew that it was going to come and save the world?”

Brittney Kara

It also shouldn’t be a surprise that they do it to try and sell you stuff, like Brittney Kara’s “Awakening Reset Program.”

Or Isagenix products.

Wait, is Isagenix mentioned in the Bible?

“You can be confident that Isagenix is committed to your success by offering you the opportunity to live a healthy, clean, and lean lifestyle—and to create wealth while doing so.”

Are multi-level marketing companies?

Brittney Kara is not the first anti-vaccine person to say that God does not support vaccines and she likely won’t be the last.

“The society of the 21st century, just as many societies and cultures in the history of human civilization, use religion as an excuse for wars, discrimination, and now for vaccination refusal.”

Pelčić on Religious exception for vaccination or religious excuses for avoiding vaccination

She may be the first to say that “believing in vaccines is a mental disorder.”

Not sure where she gets that…

Still, despite the availability of religious exemptions to vaccines in most states, it is important to understand that no mainstream religions oppose vaccines.

“For its part, Catholic social teaching entails a duty to vaccinate in order to protect the vulnerable.”

Paul J. Carson on Catholic Social Teaching and the Duty to Vaccinate

In fact, most teach about a duty and moral obligation to vaccinate.

“Giving children a healthy start in life, no matter where they are born or the circumstances of their birth, is the moral obligation of every one of us. It is heartbreaking to think that three million children die each year from diseases that we can prevent.”

Nelson Mandela (2002 Vaccine Conference)

And if there is a moral obligation to get vaccinated, then what does that say about those who push propaganda that scares parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids?

More on Vaccines and the Bible

Who Was John Birch?

It is well known that the anti-vaccination movement is as old as the history of vaccines itself.

John Birch (B) and the other anti-vaccine heroes of the day on their way to fight the vaccination monster.
John Birch (B) and the other anti-vaccine heroes of the day on their way to fight the vaccination monster.

Don’t believe me?

Soon after Edward Jenner had developed his vaccine, in addition to simply convincing people that he had come up with a method of preventing small pox that was better than inoculation, he had to overcome those who were dead set against the idea of vaccination.

“Do not the men, the heroes—who first dared to stand forth to arrest the progress, and stop the fatal havoc of this most dreadful and destructive monster, and at length have bravely subdued and put him to flight with all his mighty host, merit an obelisk created to their fame, with their names inscribed upon it, in indelible characters, to be held in grateful remembrance through all future generations?

And are not these names Moseley, Rowley, Birch, Squirrel, Lipscomb?”

The Vaccination Monster

Among them was John Birch.

Arthur Allen, in his book, Vaccine, calls John Birch one of “Jenner’s earliest foes.”

Who Was John Birch?

John Birch believed that he had serious reasons to object to Jenner's smallpox vaccine.
John Birch believed that he had serious reasons to object to Jenner’s smallpox vaccine.

John Birch worked among the medical households of King George III’s children.

Specifically, he was the “Surgeon extraordinary to the Prince of Wales” at Spring-gardens. This is in contrast to the “Physicians in ordinary” that were on the regular staff of the British Royal Household and were in regular attendance.

And he believed that he had such “serious reasons” to object to Jenner’s smallpox vaccine that he wrote a report about it in 1804, which secured his place in anti-vaccine history.

Why was he against Jenner’s small pox vaccine?

His main argument was that “Inoculation, so perfectly understood, and so successfully managed as it was, ought not be abandoned for a mere Experiment…”

He left out the part that he made a lot of money inoculating patients against small pox. He also treated small pox patients – with electric current.

The only true statement here was that his arguments were fallacious.
The only true statement here was that his arguments were fallacious.

Not surprisingly, Birch also used many of the same arguments that we hear today:

  • vaccines are dangerous (they can have risks, but are very safe)
  • vaccines cause a host of vaccine-induced diseases (they don’t)
  • vaccines sometimes don’t work (yes, they don’t work 100% of the time, but they do work very well)

He also leaves out the part about small pox inoculation being a lot riskier than vaccination, although either was certainly better than being at risk for a natural small pox infection. Actually, he doesn’t leave that out. Birch goes out of his way to claim that inoculation is a safer practice!

Why should folks believe him?

Because he says that he was right to stick with a treatment that others had already given up on – “here I was unwilling to give up Experience for Experiment, wanting nothing more safe or certain than Mercury…”

“In all investments, and in all enquiries, Trust must ultimately prevail.”

John Birch 1804

Fortunately, the truth prevailed.

Russia became the first country to ban inoculation or variolation, transitioning in favor of vaccination with Jenner’s small pox vaccine, in 1805. This is around the same time as Birch published his anti-vaccine pamphlet. Other countries followed their lead.

Birch was wrong about mercury and he was wrong about the small pox vaccine.

The John Birch Society

Although some of the member of the John Birch Society are associated with some anti-vaccine ideas and conspiracy theories, they have nothing to do with Jenner’s John Birch.

The John Birch Society was founded by Robert Welch and named after John Morrison Birch, a missionary who is said to have been the first victim of the Cold War.

What to Know About John Birch

John Birch was one of the first anti-vaccinationists and fought against Edward Jenner’s new small pox vaccine.

More About John Birch

Save

Edward Jenner

Edward Jenner (1749 – 1823) was a doctor in England who is well known for discovering a vaccine against smallpox.

I shall never have smallpox for I have had cowpox. I shall never have an ugly pockmarked face.

The key parts of Jenner’s story include:

  • Edward Jenner published his inquiry about his smallpox vaccine in 1798.
    Edward Jenner published his inquiry about his smallpox vaccine in 1798.

    milkmaids – Jenner had heard that people who worked regularly with cows, including milkmaids, usually didn’t get smallpox

  • cowpox – milkmaids did get cowpox, with pocks on their hands from infected udders, but they didn’t get pocks from smallpox on their face, and Jenner suspected the cowpox infection protected them from smallpox
  • Sarah Nelmes – a milkmaid who had cowpox and came to Jenner for treatment and became the source of cowpox virus for Jenner’s experiments
  • Blossom – Sarah Nelmes’ cow that was infected with cowpox
  • James Phipps – an 8-year-old boy and son of Jenner’s gardener who was the first (in 1796) to become inoculated with cowpox to see if it would protect him from smallpox – it did!
  • Royal Society – the national academy of science which rejected Jenner’s initial paper describing his cowpox experiment with Phipps and others
  • Jenner’s Inquiry – a booklet, An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae, a disease discovered in some of the western counties of England, particularly Gloucestershire and Known by the Name of Cow Pox, that he published in 1798

And although many doubted his work, Jenner’s vaccination eventually replaced the previous method of protection – variolation.

And even more importantly, Jenner’s vaccine eventually eradicated smallpox!

Edward Jenner died when he was 73, on  January 26, 1823.

What to Know About Edward Jenner

Edward Jenner developed the first smallpox vaccine that helped eradicate smallpox.

More on Edward Jenner

Updated January 26, 2018