Smallpox Vaccination – India in 1882

February 23, 1882

Although the epidemic of smallpox visited the north-western provinces of India in a fearful manner, causing 58,00 deaths in the single year of 1872, all attempts at introducing vaccinate on as a protective measure were resisted by the superstitious natives. They looked upon smallpox as a visitation from a deity, called by them Sitts, whose answer had to the appeased with special sacrifices and pleasure.

In spite of all this, however vaccination, although under peculiar circumstances was gradually introduced among the natives.

The Thekens, a tribe that still practice infanticide to a horrible extent, first allowed their female children to be vaccinated, being convinced of its fatal termination, and hoping thereby to get rid of this superfluous progeny. All the sons, however, were carefully guarded, Smallpox broke out in four of their villages, a short time afterwards, which carried off nearly all the boys, while the girls escaped the disease.

This unlooked for termination induced the natives to resort to the opposite practice, compelling the boys to be vaccinated, while the girls were left unprotected.

Besides this, a large number of cases were observed where children were concealed by their families from the vaccinators; in almost all instances these died, when those vaccinated escaped smallpox.

via Align Deutsche Zent of Brazil.

Collection: African American Newspapers
Date: February 23, 1882
Title: Vaccination In India
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

It is interesting to note that fear and confusion over vaccinations were every bit as common in the Western world just a few generations before.

Vaccination Cartoon

An 1802 cartoon depicting the early controversy surrounding Jenner’s vaccination theory.

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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