U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has joined the chorus of those seeking to justify the Biden administration‘s vaccine mandate by reminding us that George Washington once mandated smallpox inoculation for the Continental Army. Murtha recently invoked Washington’s memory on ABC’s “This Week” saying: “Throughout our history, we have seen that we have used vaccine requirements to protect the population. It started back with George Washington, in fact, when he required troops be inoculated for smallpox.”
But Washington didn’t have a smallpox vaccine at his disposal. A true vaccine would not be developed until after the war, and more modern vaccines did not appear until the 20th century. Washington didn’t mandate a vaccine; he mandated natural immunity.
Our first president required his troops to be inoculated by a process in which pus from an infected person was passed on to a healthy subject, often through a wound. The recipient would contract the disease and hopefully suffer only a mild case. And when (or if) the subject recovered, he would have immunity to smallpox. This is not vaccination; it is inoculation through natural immunity.
It is more than a little ironic that this example is being bandied about by an administration so bent on ignoring the natural immunity of recovered COVID-19 patients. Why are they so intent on vaccinating the inoculated?
So, yes, Dr. Murthy, let’s follow Washington’s example as well as the science: Update the administration‘s vaccine mandate to acknowledge natural immunity from COVID-19-recovered patients. Or at least stop using the genius of our greatest president to cover for the failings of our current one.
JOHN L. ROE