“To vaccinate or not to vaccinate, that is the question”, soliloquised Piglet, “since all vaccines are equal, but some vaccines are more equal than others” – poetic licence applied with apologies to William Shakespeare and George Orwell.
Smallpox is a virulent infectious vesicular disease. Vesicular and pox in that it causes eruptions on the skin which develop into pustules or pox, and eventually leaves one covered with pitted pockmarks; and designated “small” since the 16th century, to distinguish it from the “great pox” syphilis. It is caused by the virus variola major, variola being a term introduced in circa 570 AD by Bishop Marius of Aventicum, now Avenches, then the capital of Roman Switzerland, and meaning pustule. It was a dreaded pestilence in Europe particularly during the 17th and 18th centuries and killed nearly a third of its victims, most of whom were children. The pathogen was spread mostly during the early rash stage from sores in the tongue and mouth through droplets emitted into the air.