London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Battersea 1896

Report upon the public health and sanitary condition of the Parish of St. Mary, Battersea during the year1896

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It is obvious that the employment of calf-lymph only would
wholly exclude the risks as regards both Syphilis and Leprosy.
Respecting the latter disease, however, there appears to be reason
to doubt whether any risk exists, and at any rate it does not
concern the British population. Even in Leprosy districts
the employment of English human lymph would be, so far as
Leprosy is concerned, as safe as that from the calf. The risk of
Syphilis, although real, is an exceedingly small one, even when
humanized lymph is employed, and may probably be wholly
avoided by care in the selection of the vaccinifer. As regards all
the other dangers, whether of severe illness or temporary inconvenience,
the two forms of lymph appear to stand on the same
level. The instances of inflamed arms, of Erysipelas, of Vaccinia
Maligna, and Eczematous eruptions are not more common after
the use of human lymph than after that from the calf. Some of
the best qualified witnesses who have afforded us their assistance
have expressed a deliberate preference for arm-to-arm vaccination,
believing that the advantages of calf-lymph are more imaginary
than real.
A careful examination of the facts which have been brought
under our notice has enabled us to arrive at the conclusion that,
although some of the dangers said to attend vaccination are
undoubtedly real and not inconsiderable in gross amount, yet when
considered in relation to the extent of vaccination work done they
are insignificant. There is reason further to believe that they are
diminishing under the better precautions of the present day, and
with the addition of the further precautions which experience
suggests will do so still more in the future.
We put the use of calf-lymph in the forefront because, as we
have said, this would afford an absolute security against the
communication of Syphilis. Though we believe the risk of such
communication to be extremely small where humanized lymph is
employed, we cannot but recognise the fact that however slight
the risk, the idea of encountering even such a risk is naturally

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