The 12th and 13th Days
Chromolithograph (1896) after a painting by George Kirtland
Wellcome Library, London
- Inoculations essentially make the body a tiny bit sick (usually locally), in order to guard against major future infections.
- This is the procedure brought to the attention of Western science by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Zabdiel Boylston in 1721. They referred to it as “inoculation” or “engrafting.”
- Previously, it had been practiced in China, Turkey, and West Africa.
- Throughout The Speckled Monster, I refer to variolation as “inoculation.”
- The name variola comes from varius, Latin for “spotted.”
- The name vaccinia comes from vacca, Latin for “cow.”
- “Vaccination” has since become a generic term (like “Xerox,” “Kleenex,” and “Levi’s”), and is now often used to indicate inoculation against any disease.
- You CANNOT get smallpox from the vaccine. It contains no smallpox virus.
- Variolation kills an estimated 1 in 100 patients: good odds, if your only other choice is to suffer through an epidemic killing up to 1 in 3 of its victims.
- The modern smallpox vaccination kills about 1 or 2 in a million people: an almost miraculous improvement.
- Biss, Eula. On Immunity: An Inoculation. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Graywolf Press, 2014.