If the Founding Fathers had been antivaxers, we’d still be speaking British and obsessing over royalty—wait—that doesn’t sound right….
Dr. Andrew Ellsworth notes that, to win the Revolution, General George Washington had to keep his troops away from potential superspreaders:
Boston had an outbreak of smallpox in 1775 from British Redcoats arriving to fight the rebellion. George Washington knew very well the dangers of smallpox after having had it himself as a young man, which left scars on his face. To keep his soldiers safe, Washington did not allow anyone from Boston near his troops. Washington wrote to John Hancock, the president of the Continental Congress, that he would “continue the utmost vigilance against this most dangerous enemy.” Later, when the British withdrew from Boston, Washington allowed only soldiers with immunity into the city [Dr. Andrew Ellsworth, “Honoring Our Antiviral Founding Father,” Yankton Press and Dakotan, 2021.07.06].
General Washington also required all of his troops to get vaccinated… or, in this case, variolated:
This was before the advancement of vaccinations. However, there was a procedure known as variolation, an early form of vaccination which involved exposing a cut on the recipient’s arm to a small dose of the virus, hopefully just enough to trigger immunity without causing severe illness or death. The procedure was illegal in many places including Washington’s home state of Virginia.
Washington knew they could not afford to lose more soldiers to smallpox. Thus, despite push back from the Continental Congress, Washington ordered this primitive form of vaccination for the entire army, and by the end of 1777 more than 40,000 soldiers had received it. Infection of the army dropped from 20% to 1% and lawmakers repealed bans against variolation for smallpox across the colonies [Ellsworth, 2021.07.06].
Imagine that: America’s independence depended on a national leader who took an epidemic seriously.
President Washington would tell you the same thing President Biden is telling you: Get Your Shots!
Finding the Small pox to be spreading much and fearing that no precaution can prevent it from running through the whole of our Army, I have determined that the troops shall be inoculated. This Expedient may be attended with some inconveniences and some disadvantages, but yet I trust in its consequences will have the most happy effects. Necessity not only authorizes but seems to require the measure, for should the disorder infect the Army in the natural way and rage with its usual virulence we should have more to dread from it than from the Sword of the Enemy [Gen. George Washington, letter to William Shippen, Jr., 1777.02.06].