Vaccination time

I really should be doing other things, but I noticed this in the Sydney Free Press of October 1841.  (This is one of the periodicals reproduced as part of the Australian Cooperative Digitisation Project, available at the NLA site.  It’s separate from the Australian Newspapers digitisation project also at the National Library site. These are small runs of Australian serials published between 1840-5. What an embarrassment of riches we have here with these digitized papers!)

Smallpox had been carried on an American ship of war from Tahiti, where smallpox was prevalent.  The ship had touched at New Zealand and in response the Government reprinted this notice from two years earlier.

Colonial Secretary’s Office

Sydney 29th July 1839

In order to avert the calamities which must necessarily follow if the Small pox be introduced into the Colony, and to keep up a constant supply of Vaccine Lymph, His Excellency the Governor directs it to be notified that children will receive vaccine gratis, if taken to any of the public hospitals, or Colonial Surgeons throughout the colony, every Tuesday at eleven o’clock in the forenoon.  But as the operation itself, without any proof of its having taken effect, would be insufficient security to the public mind, His Excellency has been pleased to direct, that a charge of one shilling shall be deposited for every child vaccinated, which sum will be returned on the presentation of the child on the next vaccination day.

His Excellency very strongly recommends parents and guardians to avail themselves as early as possible, of the means thus afforded to them of taking this necessary and proper precaution with respect to all children not already vaccinated

By His Excellency’s Command


Interesting to see in this public notice the appeal to the hip-pocket nerve. Bring ’em back next immunization day and we’ll pay you! There’s an idea for Rudd’s health plan and perhaps the Republicans in America might feel more comfortable about this rebate scheme instead of Obama’s health insurance plan.  If Nana survives her hip transplant, we’ll pay you!

I really don’t have time to comment further- I should be doing other things instead of thinking about scabs and lymphs.
There’s a fascinating article by Michael J Bennett called “Smallpox and Cowpox under the Southern Cross: The Smallpox Epidemic of  1789 and the Advent of Vaccination in Colonial Australia” from the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 83, 1, Spring 2009.

And just to make sure we’re not too relaxed and comfortable as we survey our little dimpled smallpox vaccination scars on our upper arms, I’ll leave you with this.

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