The illness "variola" (small pocks) also known as "Blattern" could have terrible effects on people throughout the centuries. This illness was able to disfigure or blind people. All levels of society were affected. There was no cure so that the illness appeared every four to seven years. Children especially were targeted by the epidemic and Blattern could be one of the top causes for children's deaths. Naturally, parents and scientists were eager to find a cure.
Health care through the state was the most effective gauge against epidemics, such as small pox, yellow fever and others. The first guidelines came in the 5th century concerning cleanliness and morality. The first to implement health care were monasteries.
In the 12th century, with the growth of cities, the city administration became the dominant factor in implementing hospitals and the training of physicians. The example came from Italy where medical schools flourished. After training, doctors were hired by city administrators to also work in hospitals. Exemplary health care was practiced under the auspices of Großfürst Friedrich Wilhelm who issued an edict (Medizinaledikt) in 1685. Medical quorums and –orders served to protect people’s health. A so called “medical police” was established. The author Johann Peter Frank produced 6 volumes entitled “System einer vollständigen medicinischen Polizei“ between 1779 and 1821. His precepts of preventive medicine and hygiene measures had their impact into the 20th century.
It is believed that epidemics were spread through trading and other forms of human traffic as well as by roaming and infected soldiers. People involved in trading had to carry health passports. Wars facilitated a wide spread danger of epidemics. Isolation of plague victims in so called “Pesthäuser” was intact since 1473. From the beginning 17th century on it became mandatory to report any outbreak of pestilence. By 1898 doctors in Bavaria were placed under obligation to report any disease. Similar regulations were in place in Baden. By reporting outbreaks the Prussian state prevented the bringing in of diseases from the East. Prussia concerned itself with fighting contagious diseases since 1764. They implemented inoculation for orphanages and children in poor houses as well as for the population in areas prone to epidemic outbreaks.
It is well known that the British doctor Jenner started vaccinating children with cow pox to achieve immunity, however, long before 1796 sporadic tests were made to immunize people. However, these experiments did not prove to be 100% successful and were known to have caused more harm in some instances than the Blattern themselves. The birthdate for vaccination against small pocks was the 14th May 1796. Jenner's "experiment" with cow pocks proved to be so successful that his methods quickly spread to the continent and was improved upon in the next decade. What pastors and doctors started, was picked up by the state and thus vaccination books sprang up everywhere. The entire population was listed, and carefully kept tabulations established of children who were not yet vaccinated and which were. There are remarks in such lists that those children who moved from a location to another were brought to the attention of the authorities if they had not been vaccinated.
Since 1820 the military was subjected to vaccination and from 1831 on received booster shots. What was mandatory for the military was not for the rest of the population.
In Bavaria inoculation existed for school children and numerous villages since 1807. People who avoided vaccination were fined or sentenced to prison. The vaccination campaign in Bavaria proved to be successful. In 65 years 8.25 Million inoculations occurred, 70.25% of newborns were registered. A vaccination mandate appeared in 1826 in Saxony.
However, vaccination was not adhered to across the board in Germany, partly because of relaxed attitudes or ignorance of booster shots on part of the administrations and partly because of resistance by the population. Consequently, outbreaks of contagious disease occurred again and again.
Before mandatory laws re. administration of vaccinations were established, a multifaceted array of people acted as inoculators, pastors, teachers, academic doctors and in Wuerttemberg even (archaic) surgeons (Wundärzte).
By April 1, 1875 the German inoculation law was installed. Each child had to be vaccinated before it entered school and receive a booster shot by age 12. Before people married or with each issuing of a Gesindedienstbuch (labor card) and with each change of residence, evidence of booster shots had to be produced.
Hess, Bärbel-Jutta. Seuchengesetzgebung in den Deutschen Staaten und im Kaiserreich vom ausgehenden 18. Jahrhundert bis zum Reichsseuchengesetz 1900 see http://archiv.ub,uni-heidelberg.de/volltextserver/volltexte/2010/10458/pdf/dissertation_15_02_10.pdf
Pocken - Seuchengeschichte http://www.gapinfo.de/gesundheitsamt/alle/seuche/infekt/virus/pocken/sg.htm
Zeitschrift für Niederdeutsche Familienkunde. Fritz Hopfgarten, Impfbücher und Familienforschung. page 170 pp.Heft 4/2009
Unfortenately, most vaccination books have not survived. After 30 years they found themselves in the shredders, in 1977 the last books were established, after which vaccination against small pocks was eliminated.
The catalog at the Family History Library www.familysearch has some Impflisten. To access them enter Impflisten at keyword search. The records contain the name of child, how old, name of father and when vaccinated.