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Number of smallpox deaths in various stages of vaccination implementation 1700-1898

The development of vaccination by Edward Jenner in 1796 is seen by many as one of the most important and world-changing medical discoveries ever made. Throughout human history, smallpox was responsible for an untold and innumerable share of fatalities, with epidemics devastating countries (and even continents) in their wake; as of 1980, the World Health Organization declared smallpox to be eliminated in nature, making it the only human disease to have been successfully eradicated. If we look at the share of smallpox deaths in England over the nineteenth century, we can see the impact that vaccination had on society during this time.

Decline in Britain

Within this century, the number of people dying annually from smallpox dropped from 3,000 per million people in the 1700s, to just ten people per million in the 1890s (it is also worth noting that a smallpox pandemic swept across Britain between 1891 and 1893, which caused this number to be higher than it could have been). Mandatory vaccination was not introduced in England until 1853, but by this point the number of smallpox deaths per million people had already fallen to a fraction of its eighteenth century level, and compulsory vaccination reduced these numbers even further.

Average number of annual smallpox deaths per million inhabitants in England during the various stages of vaccination implementation between 1700 and 1898

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Release date



United Kingdom (England, Wales)

Survey time period

1700 to 1898

Supplementary notes

*Approximate estimation.

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Statistics on "Smallpox"

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