Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Great Grandma Jane was a Vaxxer
Mary Jane Eynon's biscuit tin contains two frail certificates of vaccination: Emily Isabel, vaccinated at 6 months in 1882; and Charlotte Victoria in 1894, the year she was born. Both took place in Fitzroy; There was a further "Notice to Parents" that their child Violet Alicia was to be presented for vaccination, either to the Public Vaccinator or to a Medical Practitioner. Isabel was vaccinated by a medical practitioner, Charlotte by the Public Vaccinator, and there is no further information about Violet's vaccination.
The certificates indicated that vaccination was compulsory for children under the Compulsory Vaccination Act. The certificates were to be forwarded when vaccinations completed to the district registrar who presumably matched them with births registered.
The only vaccinations available at this time were for smallpox. Public health was a serious issue for the government with a growing and mobile population. Outbreaks of smallpox in Australia in the 19th century were common, but in 2015 no cases of small pox have been notified - the disease has been eradicated in Australia. The last notification of a smallpox case occurred in 1921.
Mary Jane would have heard her mother talk about the two baby boys who had died in Beechworth in the 1850s, and would have personally remembered the deaths of other small children in the camps around her as she grew older, as well as two siblings who died as young adults. Mary Jane's children benefited from public health programs. She lost only one infant of her large family of eight children.