Mark Fischetti in Scientific American:
Vaccine booster shots for COVID have recently been approved and are being rolled out widely. Wariness about boosters is still evident, however, along with debate over whether vaccinations should be required. All this seems new to us in 2021, but a similar situation played out in the U.S. and globally way back in 1872, when smallpox was raging. Scientific American published an article about the science, fears and debate over “revaccination”—boosters—and the discussion then is eerily parallel to the COVID discourse right now.
The article is reprinted below; it is a fascinating and pretty quick read. The alarming disease was spreading, people were afraid of contagion, the sick were being quarantined, and notably, there was great worry about a variant that could make smallpox much more deadly. Data from Prussia, where law required revaccination every seven years, showed that death by smallpox was rare, compared with higher rates in other parts of the world, so the editors expressed support for revaccination. Scientists were trying to determine how long to wait after initial inoculation before boosters were given. The editors also said that if there were a law requiring vaccination and revaccination, that action could end the scourge, yet they wondered whether such a law could be enforced.