Vaccine (Magill's Literary Annual 2008)
An item of trivia noted by another reviewer of Vaccine created an immediate interest in the subject addressed by Arthur Allen. Like many parents, I had a child whose favorite plaything at one time was an old Raggedy Ann doll. As described by Allen, Raggedy Ann originated as a rag doll created by New York City illustrator Johnny Gruelle, made for his daughter who became fatally ill following a smallpox vaccination. Indeed, Vaccine is filled with items for the trivia buff, ranging from the origin of the medical phrase “guinea pig” (George Bernard Shaw) to the method of delivering fresh smallpox vaccine to city residents“cattle drives” consisting of infected animals.
Allen begins his story with the history of the earliest use of inoculationthe term “vaccination” was not yet appliedin a widespread manner to immunize a population. Human civilization is ripe with epidemic disease, and smallpox certainly ranks among the most-feared diseases. Its reputation was deserved. Two forms of the disease have long been known: Variola major and a less virulent Variola minor. The molecular basis for the difference is still not understood, but those infected with the more virulent form, if they survivedand 20-30 percent did not during most outbreaksfrequently suffered lifelong scarring. Helplessness in facing a smallpox epidemic began to change in the early eighteenth century, the result in large part of observations on the...
(The entire section is 1813 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2008)
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(The entire section is 50 words.)