Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Early smallpox vaccine manufacturing in the United States: introduction of the "animal vaccine" in 1870, establishment of "vaccine farms", and the beginnings of the vaccine industry.

Abstract

For the first 80-90 years after Jenner's discovery of vaccination in 1796, the main strategy used to disseminate and maintain the smallpox vaccine was arm-to-arm vaccination, also known as Jennerian or humanized vaccination. A major advance occurred after 1860 with the development of what was known as "animal vaccine", which referred to growing vaccine material from serial propagation in calves before use in humans. The use of "animal vaccine" had several advantages over arm-to-arm vaccination: it would not transmit syphilis or other human diseases, it ensured a supply of vaccine even in the absence of the spontaneous occurrence of cases of cowpox or horsepox, and it allowed the production of large amounts of vaccine. The "animal vaccine" concept was introduced in the United States in 1870 by Henry Austin Martin. Very rapidly a number of "vaccine farms" were established in the U.S. and produced large quantities of "animal vaccine". These "vaccine farms" were mostly established by medical doctors who saw an opportunity to respond to an increasing demand of smallpox vaccine from individuals and from health authorities, and to make a profit. The "vaccine farms" evolved from producing only smallpox "animal vaccine" to manufacturing several other biologics, including diphtheria- and other antitoxins. Two major incidents of tetanus contamination happened in 1901, which led to the promulgation of the Biologics Control Act of 1902. The US Secretary of the Treasury issued licenses to produce and sell biologicals, mainly vaccines and antitoxins. Through several mergers and acquisitions, the initial biologics licensees eventually evolved into some of the current major American industrial vaccine companies. An important aspect that was never clarified was the source of the vaccine stocks used to manufacture the smallpox "animal vaccines". Most likely, different smallpox vaccine stocks were repeatedly introduced from Europe, resulting in polyclonal vaccines that are now recognized as "variants" more appropriately than "strains". Further, clonal analysis of modern "animal vaccines" indicate that they are probably derived from complex recombinational events between different strains of vaccinia and horsepox. Modern sequencing technologies are now been used by us to study old smallpox vaccine specimens in an effort to better understand the origin and evolution of the vaccines that were used to eradicate the smallpox.