Jenner Writes on the Impact of his Smallpox Vaccine in India Saving "Millions… from an untimely grave"
Item Number: 13540
Virologist and Inventor of the smallpox vaccine. 4 page letter entirely in his hand. April 8th, 1811. On the history of his smallpox vaccine's arrival in India in 1811 , including the role of Dr. De Carro and the involvement of the East India Company in its journey. Jenner also emphasizes the incredible number of lives saved by the vaccine: "The advantages derived from the universal adoption of Vaccination throughout the Company's Settlements in India are represented to me as immense. Millions have been already saved from an untimely grave who would have been sent there by the ravages of the Smallpox." Finally, Jenner writes of his goal "to spread Vaccination over the Globe."
India was in dire need of Jenner's vaccine. The number of smallpox cases there represented over half the world's total cases. Before millions of lives could be saved in India, the hurdle of reaching the distant country with the perishable vaccine had to be overcome: "I…made several efforts to introduce the new practice there, by sending the matter to Madras with ample instructions to the Medical Men at the different Presidencies." The distance involved in this voyage and the recipient's lack of experience with the vaccine made Jenner's first attempt at transport "ineffectual."
Jenner next invited his friend and colleague, Dr. De Carro of Vienna, transport the smallpox vaccination to India while ensuring its safety by making the journey himself. Dr. De Carro was a strong proponent of the vaccine, and had corresponded with Jenner throughout its progress. In 1802, only 3 years after Jenner first announced its invention, De Carro was succeeded in transporting Jenner's smallpox vaccination to India (Baron, 421). Jenner describes the process in our letter: "My Friend and Pupil Dr. De Carro of Vienna soon after availd himself of an opportunity of sending it to Constantinople, and by renewing it at different Stations as it passed on, it at length reached Bombay in a state of perfection."
Once the vaccine had successfully arrived in India, the impact was immediate and lasting, saving the lives of millions. As Jenner explains in our letter, "The advantages derived from the universal adoption of Vaccination throughout the Company's Settlements in India are represented to me as immense." The Company Jenner mentions is the British East India Company, which, recognizing the huge impact of the vaccine, rewarded Dr. De Carro with "a pecuniary present." Jenner reflects upon the results of the vaccine in our letter: "Millions have been already saved from an untimely grave who would have been sent there by the ravages of the Smallpox." Jenner's work continued to save vast numbers of lives, as he worked tirelessly "to spread Vaccination over the Globe."
Jenner's vaccine continued to save lives long after his his own time. In the early 1950s, 150 years after Jenner first introduced his vaccine, an estimated 50 million cases of smallpox continued to arise each year, a figure which fell to around 10-15 million by 1967 because of vaccination. In 1980, The World Health Organization was finally able to declare smallpox eradicated. The time of this letter allows us the privilege of experiencing Jenner's reflection upon the impact of his work and the outcome of his goal to save lives internationally. This manuscript comes with a letter written in 1970 stating that this is the only extant letter of Jenner from 1811. Signed "Edw. Jenner." Some discoloration on three lines. Overall very good condition.