- Wife of the Gods
- Children of the Street
- Murder at Cape Three Points
- Gold of our Fathers
- Death by His Grace
- The Missing American
- Death at the Voyager Hotel
Surprise: Anti-vaxxers are nothing new
Opposition to vaccination is not a 20th-21st century phenomenon. It has been prevalent for much longer than many may realize. Here’s an intriguing anti-vaccination flyer from 1807 called “The Vaccine Monster,” clearly designed to engender feelings of suspicion, disgust and fear.
| The Vaccine Monster, 1807 (Image: Wiki Digital Methods)
The text that accompanied this image proclaimed that, “A mighty and horrible monster, with the horns of a bull, the hind of a horse, the jaws of a krakin, the teeth and claws of a tyger, the tail of a cow, all the evils of Pandora’s box in his belly, plague, pestilence, leprosy, purple blotches, foetid ulcers, and filthy running sores covering his body . . . has made his appearance in the world, and devores mankind —especially poor helpless infants—not by sores only, or hundreds, or thousands, but by hundreds of thousands.”
Another flyer from 1894 was accompanied by text warning of the dangers of vaccination.
|(Image originally from Historical Medical Library of The College
of Physicians of Philadelphia)
Notice the reference to vaccines being poison and not only ineffective, but actually producing death. Most important is this sentence: “Any dogma of a class, medical or religious, that needs the fostering care of legislative enactment to force it upon the people, shows inherent weakness and condemns it at once among all men.” It also claims that the smallpox vaccine caused greater mortality than smallpox itself.
A Supreme Court Case
In Part 1 of this two-part series, we saw how important the smallpox vaccine became as a preventive measure against a grossly disfiguring and highly contagious disease. By 1902, smallpox vaccination was well established in Boston. Nevertheless, the disease stubbornly hung around, and officials took drastic measures. For instance, public health doctors, accompanied by guards, went to the railway yards and forcibly vaccinated “Italians, negroes and other employees.”
In 1902, Cambridge’s Board of Health mandated smallpox vaccination for all residents who had not been vaccinated since 1897. But a naturalized Swedish American called Reverend Henning Jacobson refused to take the vaccination, claiming that Sweden’s mandatory vaccination when he was six years old had caused him “great and extreme suffering.” He was convicted and fined $5, which he refused to pay.
In a legal brief, Jacobson stated he rejected a law that compelled “. . . a man to offer up his body to pollution and filth and disease,” on the basis of the 14th Amendment, which states in part, “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” Of note, Jacobson made dire references to vaccinations (“filth and disease”) that echoed those of the 1807 “Vaccine Monster” flyer. The Jacobson case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that individual liberty is not absolute and is subject to the police power of the state. Jacobson lost the case.
But in 1926, a group of health officers who went to Georgetown, DE to vaccinate the townspeople were met by an armed mob led by a retired Army Lieutenant and a city councilman. The “vaccinators” were driven out. If any of the residents of Georgetown were aware of the 1905 Supreme Court ruling, it evidently made no difference to the ire directed against the authorities.
In 1935, two separate polio vaccine trials using killed and attenuated poliovirus resulted in catastrophic morbidity and mortality in many subjects out of the 11,000 total number of people vaccinated. This doesn’t say vaccines are bad; rather it emphasizes the absolute importance of conducting careful trials before a large number of people are administered a vaccine. In 1953, Jonas Salk produced an injected vaccine for polio using a killed virus, and in fact he injected his own family members with it. In 1959, Albert Sabin brought out his oral attenuated virus, which was tried out on, strangely enough, Soviet citizens. In modern times, only the inactivated (injected) poliovirus is used in the U.S., while other countries use the oral form. Throughout the 1900s, many of the vaccines with which we’ve come to be familiar, e.g. mumps, measles, rubella, rabies, diphtheria, pertussis, meningitis, and chickenpox were developed. In 1972, the smallpox vaccine was no longer routinely administered in the U.S.
The “Case” Against Vaccines
The objections and resistance to vaccination fall into a number of categories: