Luigi Sacco, ceroplastic and

early smallpox vaccination

in Italy

Feature: The use of media in early vaccination campaigns

Fabio Zampieri, Alberto Zanatta and Maurizio Rippa Bonati

A plate published by Sacco on spurious and real vaccine.

“Tables should be prepared

with well coloured drawings

or, even better, two arms

made by wax, one with

pustules of real vaccine,

another with spurious

and anomalous pustules.

Those representations

should be multiplied and

sent to every chief town.”

Luigi Sacco (1803)

2 | Wellcome HISTORY

Luigi Sacco (1769–1863), who

has been referred to as the

‘Italian Jenner’ and the ‘apostle

of vaccination’, was the protagonist

of the first vaccination campaign in

Northern Italy. In September 1800, two

years after the discovery of Jenner’s

vaccination, Sacco identified the

pus vaccine in a group of cows near

Varese; as a result, the government

of the Cisalpine Republic appointed

Sacco executive chief of vaccination

in 1801. Sacco’s vaccine was used all

over Italy – and in Eastern Europe

and Asia – after this date. Sacco was

active until the 1820s, and he headed

the vaccination campaign through

three different Northern Italian

governments between 1801 and 1809:

the Cisalpine Republic, the Italian

Republic and the Kingdom of Italy.

In 1803 Sacco published a

monograph about vaccination.

This explained the creation and

use of iconographical and wax

models in Italian smallpox control

efforts “to fix the attention of the

population, and, particularly, of

physicians, surgeons and midwifes,

and to avoid the danger of reaching

doubtful or misleading results.”

In 1809 Sacco published his major

work, The Treatise of Vaccination with

Observations on Grease and Sheep-pox.

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