Episode 470 – The Vaccinators, Part 2

If the first translation of a text on smallpox vaccination in Japan was finished in 1820, how did it take another 29 years for the first mass vaccination campaigns to begin? The answers involve everything from a German doctor accused of being a spy to networks of physicians trying to navigate obscure bureaucracy. And they might remind you more of the last few years than you’d think.


Janneta, Ann. The Vaccinators: Smallpox, Medical Knowledge, and the ‘Opening’ of Japan.

Fairfax, Irwin. “Smallpox in Japan.” Public Heath Reports 25, No 35 (Sept, 1910).

Bowers, John Z. “The Odyssey of Smallpox Vaccination.” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 55, No 1 (Spring, 1981).


Some domains (though not all) mandated vaccination once it became available. This booklet is from Saga domain in 1849, where lord Nabeshima Naomasa did mandate the practice (and had his own son vaccinated to demonstrate its safety).


2 thoughts on “Episode 470 – The Vaccinators, Part 2”

  1. 1. Were there any attempts at cultivating a domestic supply of Cowpox instead of having to rely on imports from the Dutch?

    2. Amongst the daimyo who accepted vaccination who was more likely to do so: Fudai or Tozama daimyo? Was there any correlation between vaccine acceptance and where their clans lined up during the Meiji Restoration?

  2. I recently finished the anime Hidamari no Ki based on the manga by Osamu Tezuka is about his great grandfather Ryoan Tezuka trying to set up a smallpox vaccination clinic in Tokyo while dealing with the kanpo practitioners blocking his every move to get funding, especially after ranpo was banned. Ryoan studied under Ogata Koan at Tekijuku and even met Fukuzawa Yukichi. It goes through a bunch of the big events of the Bakumatsu his great grandfather lived through, including the Ansei Purges, the Ansei Earthquake, and a great cholera epidemic he helped treat.
    One of the biggest problems he faced was not only the blackmailing by the Koushougakuha, but the fact that people believed putting cow lymph in their bodies would turn them into cows.
    The B-plot is about Ryoan’s fictional friend who is a shishi from Fuchuu domain. I mention this because he is assigned to be the bodyguard for Townsend Harris by Hotta Masayoshi, who you also mentioned.
    Anyway, I think you’d like this show, even though I know you don’t watch anime.

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