Vaccine History: Smallpox
Smallpox was the most feared “distemper” in Colonial America. No one yet understood that it spread when people inhaled an invisible virus. The disease was fatal in more than 30 percent of all cases and even more deadly to children. Survivors were often blind, physically or mentally disabled and horribly disfigured.
In 1730, Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette had reported extensively on an outbreak in Boston. But rather than focusing on the devastation caused by the disease, Franklin’s coverage dealt primarily with the success of smallpox inoculation (vaccine precursor).