The Balmis Expedition: The world’s first international healthcare mission

Back in 1803, Spain organized a mission to inoculate the inhabitants of its vast empire from the deadly disease smallpox. It was officially known as the Royal Philanthropic Vaccine Expedition, or simply the Balmis Expedition, after the doctor who led the medical team. An ambitious project, it employed children to “carry” the vaccine during the lengthy voyage across the Atlantic and then the Pacific. It was ingenious while at the same time questionable from an ethical standpoint. But the system was a success and hundreds of thousands were vaccinated as a result. As an organized international healthcare rescue operation, this mission was way ahead of its time and has received the admiration of experts both then and today. Listen and learn more. Enjoy!

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