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‘Giusta la benefica intenzione del Re’: the Bourbon Cowpox Vaccination Campaign in Sicily

Author(s): John Chircop

Journal: Hygiea Internationalis : an Interdisciplinary Journal for the History of Public Health
ISSN 1404-4013

Volume: 9;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 155;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Keywords: Cowpox Vaccination | Public health | colonial medicine | Sicily | Palermo | midwives | parish priests | Kingdom of Two Sicilies

Sanctioned by the ruling Bourbon Monarchy, cowpox vaccination was instituted as one major public health project driving the regime’s attempts at administrative modernisation of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies. Based on original research in the archivio di stato at Palermo, this paper analyzes the intricate connections which this, one of the first state-organised mass immunisation campaigns in Europe, had with the political economy, cultural milieu and society in Sicily. After narrating the transfer of the cowpox vaccine from England to Sicily, our study focuses on the strategy employed for its spread throughout the Island, highlighting the tasks played by state representatives at the provincial and communal levels in this campaign. Yet, it is also shown how the dissemination of the vaccine at the local-neighbourhood levels came to depend on the collaboration of the public vaccinator, the parish priest and, more importantly, the local midwives through their ability to convince mothers of the benefits which vaccination offered.

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