Vaccination proof required at University of Bucharest in 1928

A COVID-19 vaccination certificate will likely soon become a requirement for international travel, and in the near future, it might also be mandatory at some institutions. Such a demand is nothing new. As the ziare.com news portal underlined in a recent article, more than a hundred years ago, the University of Bucharest required certificates of vaccination against smallpox from everyone who wished to enroll.

By the end of the 1920s, Romanian society was weary of the devastating waves of the Spanish flu pandemic, which had caused the deaths of tens of thousands from 1918 to 1919. Smallpox also killed many in the first two decades of the 20th century, thus the vaccination against this disease was obligatory, and the vaccination certificate was used as an instrument of persuasion by authorities.

If one wanted to enroll at the University of Bucharest, one needed to present a birth certificate, a declaration of consent from parents or legal guardians if the candidate was a minor, and also a vaccination certificate against smallpox, ziare.com wrote.

Smallpox had been a terrible disease for centuries. In 1796, an English physician, Edward Jenner, came up with the idea of ​​inoculating a mild form of smallpox (the cowpox virus, which is transferable from animal to human) into an 8-year-old child to stimulate an immune response. Jenner previously observed that milkmaids, who had gotten infected with cowpox and developed the typical blisters, were generally immune to smallpox. The physician scraped pus from the cowpox blisters on the hand of a milkmaid and inoculated the boy in both arms. He developed a fever but no full-blown infection. Later, Jenner injected the child with the same smallpox material, and no disease followed. Thus, the doctor demonstrated that an infection with the relatively mild cowpox virus conferred immunity against the deadly smallpox virus, and the first vaccine against a contagious disease was developed.

In the United Kingdom, the smallpox vaccine became mandatory for children in 1853. This first compulsory vaccination aroused strong opposition. Some of the opponents claimed that “injecting products of animal origin” was dangerous, others claimed “religious motives” or said that “individual freedoms were being violated.” In 1898, a so-called “conscience clause” was introduced into British legislation to allow those who were hesitant about the vaccine to refuse the vaccination, ziare.com noted.

Title image: Vaccines against infectious diseases have saved the lives of hundreds of millions. Institutions have often demanded certificates to persuade citizens to get vaccinated. The image is an illustration.

Source: Source: sciencenews.org/Library of Congress.

Author: Éva Zay