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In 1768, Catherine the Great was inoculated for smallpox, setting a royal public health example that would end up saving countless Russian lives.

According to smallpox historian Donald Hopkins, Empress Catherine had even prepared a team of horses to rush British doctor Thomas Dimsdale out of the country should any adverse effects occur, at which point riots would have ensued. Instead, she, her son, and over 140 members of the court safely recovered and Dimsdale was awarded a Barony of the Russian Empire. 

On Tuesday, Lake Martin Community Hospital was one of 20 Alabama hospitals to receive the state’s first batch of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines. 

On Wednesday, they made history administering some of the first COVID-19 vaccines in the country.

The Pfizer vaccine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration only on Friday, but it’s the culmination of 11 months of work. The U.S. is not alone — The United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, Israel are among a growing list of countries to have already approved the vaccine. 

Healthcare workers and first responders may be first on the list to receive doses, but they’re not the first ever. 44,000 volunteers have already been tested in a late-stage trial showing 95% effectiveness. 

After her inoculation, Catherine the Great was quoted as saying, “My objective was, through my example, to save from death the multitude of my subjects who, not knowing the value of this technique, and frightened of it, were left in danger.”

Two million Russians were inoculated by 1800.

Not everyone has the pull of the Empress of Russia, but anyone can set a good example for their community and for posterity.