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threads or clothing impregnated with material soaked up from smallpox pustules. Again the dried threads were sometimes sealed between two glass plates, or sealed in tubes with wax.
(4) Dried crusts or scabs
Edinburgh surgeon James Bryce discovered in 1809 that the crust or scabs which form at
the vaccination site also contain viable vaccine virus.3
In 1813 Dr Russell, of Calcutta, sent some dried scabs from pustules of cowpox to Dr D’Arcy Wentworth
in Sydney, and he cautioned that these had to be reconstituted with cold water. He also despatched ivory lancets that had been moistened with the vaccine but in his view
the desiccated form would better withstand the rigours of transport from India to Australia.4
By these methods vaccine was soon distributed throughout Britain and to North America, southern and central Europe and the Mediterranean basin by 1800, and by 1801 to Scandinavia and Russia.
For longer distances, particularly
in warmer climates, a different method was used. Weekly arm-to- arm transfer through volunteers or children maintained the vaccine. This had the advantage that the immune population could be increased at
the same time, and this was how the majority of the British forces in India were vaccinated.5
The most famous exploitation of
this procedure for the long-distance carriage of vaccine, was during an expedition, commissioned by King Charles IV of Spain, in 1803. Twenty orphan children were carried on
the ship to provide a succession of susceptible subjects for vaccination to the Spanish colonies in the new world, China and the Philippines. However, more convenient methods were clearly needed. 6
In Great Britain the National Vaccine Establishment took over the responsibility for maintaining serial arm-to-arm transfers in 1808, as well as distributing several thousand
preparations to physicians each year on ivory points or glass slides. Later, capillary tubes filled with vaccine diluted with 50% glycerol were used, but ivory points were still being employed in Great Britain as late as 1898. 7
A French researcher, Bretonnaeu of Tours, described a method of using fine glass tubes with a small expansion in the middle to collect and store drops of fluid from a punctured vesicle.8
The Public Dispensary Vaccinator in Edinburgh, Dr William Husband, published another method of preserving lymph in capillary tubes in July 1851. He demonstrated the method of filling and sealing fine tubes of glass containing lymph, which had a long shelf life and could be carried in a doctor’s bag without refrigeration.
Dr Husband advocated strongly the keeping of exact records of the source of the vaccine as well as the success or failure of the vaccination.9
Smallpox and vaccine in Australia
On board the flagship Sirrius, which was part of the First Fleet carrying convicts, their guards and some
free settlers to NSW, was surgeon
Dr Thomas Jamison, who holds several special places in the history of Australian medicine.
Dr Jamison’s tour of duty in the Antipodes was an incredible 21 years, and during that time he had only one trip home to England
in 1801, during which time he encountered first hand experience with Jenner’s new discovery of cow pox vaccination, and he became a total convert.
In NSW the first settlers at Sydney Cove became very alarmed when smallpox disease was seen on a
large scale among the indigenous population and it had wreaked havoc among the unprotected tribes. The question then arose as to the source of the outbreak, as Australia had enjoyed a natural isolation by virtue
of its geographical position up until that time. It was thought that this outbreak could have been attributed to a previous visit to the east coast of New Holland (now Australia)
by Captain James Cook, or landing parties of early French explorers, but this was only conjecture.10
When Dr Jamison returned to Sydney after his leave in 1802, he was appointed Principal Medical Officer in the colony. He shared with the Governor, Captain Phillip Gidley King, a great concern over the threat of smallpox to the white population.
In May 1803, a letter was sent to
the Secretary of State, in London, suggesting that ‘vaccine matter’ should be sent urgently to the colony.
In response, a supply of vaccine lymph, obtained from the Royal Jennerian Society, was despatched
to Dr Jamison in the transport ship Coromandel, which arrived in May 1804. A second packet of lymph also arrived on the same vessel, addressed to assistant surgeon John Savage, which was ‘put up in a different way from that sent by the Royal Jennerian Society’.
On receipt of the lymph, Dr Jamison immediately vaccinated three children at the ‘orphan asylum’ and some other persons were vaccinated by Mr Savage.
Their efforts were successful, for a notice which appeared on
3 June, 1804, in the Sydney Gazette stated that ‘the cow-pox is now fully established in the colony’
and invited parents to have their children vaccinated. Dr Jamison was one of the founders of preventative medicine in Australia, and he showed great concern for the welfare of children in the colony.
On 14 October 1804, Dr Jamison published a paper entitled General Observations on the Small-pox in the Sydney Gazette in an attempt to make parents and carers of children aware of the dangers of smallpox and the benefits of vaccination. This article was quite lengthy and it has further interest in the fact that it was the first medical paper ever published in Australia.
volume 5   no 37  NOVEMBER 2009
Pharmacy History Australia 5

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