A Brief History of Vaccination Opposition

A Brief History of Vaccination Opposition, or ‘How long will this go on before they realise this is an issue of choice?’

The way many people carry on, you’d think the movement against vaccination was a new thing. That it’s stemmed from a bunch of ‘raving, lunatic hippies’ who’ve simply read something written by a ‘whackjob’ on Google, started repeating the rantings of said ‘whackjob’, met one another, and started a movement. And in the process, put the health of everybody at risk.

This is something that irks me greatly, particularly given the strength of the rhetoric and how personal some people get when people speak out about vaccines. For example, there are websites around (which I won’t link here, as I don’t see it as being helpful, but a simple Google will turn them up easily enough) that blame thousands of deaths on certain celebrities who have spoken out against vaccinations in recent years. Others link the ‘rise of the anti-vaccination movement’ directly to ‘anti-vaccination websites’ and the ‘propaganda’ they espouse.

The implication, always, is that before the ‘anti-vaccination movement’ came along, everybody was accepting the vaccines like good little citizens, disease rates plummeted, and all was well. And then came the big, bad ‘vaccine-deniers’ and their ‘lies’, and suddenly all these diseases started to make a comeback and children started to drop like flies again.
I’m here to tell you today, that that is certainly not the case.

Since vaccination was first introduced in the late 18th century (and became more widespread in the early 19th century) by Edward Jenner, people have opposed the practice. And with good reason, too. Initially, vaccination was performed in a crude manner, by scraping the pustules of a cowpox-infected child, and introducing them to the skin of an eight year old boy. He repeated this process again, this time using the pus from a smallpox pustule, and when the child didn’t fall ill, the vaccination process was declared a success. The (utterly illogical) theory was that inoculation with cowpox would protect a person against smallpox – and so began the practice of vaccination (the word ‘vaccine’ derives from ‘vacca’, or cow, for this reason).

A more in-depth outline of the early history of vaccination itself can be found in our book ‘Investigate Before You Vaccinate’, by Sue Claridge, available from the IAS, and I’d strongly recommend you read it.

Since it began, contrary to the glowing reviews of Jenner found in most modern medical books and history texts, there has been significant controversy around the process of vaccination, and medical practitioners speaking out against it. By skimming over old medical books, often such viewpoints will pop up, and these can be most illuminating when it comes to finding out just how long opposition to vaccination has been around, and how cyclical the debates can be.

One such book is “The Cyclopedia of Popular Medical, Social, and Sexual Science” by E.B. Foote, M.D., c1900. What follows is an extract from that book – as you read, remember that this was published 112 years ago.

Exactly how far have we come since then? Why is it that the same arguments they were seeing then, around the denial of adverse effects, the way in which it boils down to a simple issue of rights, and that ultimately if vaccines do work as well as is claimed, it’s the ones who refuse them that will be the ones paying the price, as the vaccinated should be safe from harm, are the same arguments we still hear today? How long must this madness continue, and how many more people must die? Why are we still fighting for our rights against something so utterly illogical, that’s never been logical, and will never make any sense at all?

To quote that great quote, ‘There is nothing new under the sun’.

The Cyclopedia of Popular Medical, Social, and Sexual Science” by E.B. Foote, M.D., c1900. Published by Murray Hill Publishing Company. Extracts from pages 229-232
“It seems remarkable in view of Jenner’s few experiments, shifting arguments, and the many early failures of vaccination to protect, that he should have succeeded in overcoming the numerous objections to it, and establishing a general belief in its efficacy, which, in course of time, led to its official adoption and legal enforcement in many of the most civilised countries of the world; but this is, after all, but one of many curious medical errors and superstitions that have dominated the minds of men; and in the home of its birth, England, there is a strong and growing reaction against it which is surely destined to lead to its abolition. With our increasing proneness to ape English customs, when vaccination shall be turned down in England our ‘scientists’ and authorities will be pretty sure to follow muster.

The English people suffered the inconvenience and distress of compulsory vaccination from about 1850 until 1880, when, under the leadership of Mr William H. Tebb, a society was formed for the abolition of compulsory vaccination. Under his masterly and untiring leadship the movement grew to great proportions, and in 1889 a Royal commission was appointed which took about six years to study the subject in all its phases and render its report. The report was unfavourable to the compulsory feature of vaccination, and in August, 1898, a law was passed which provided that during five years it should be possible for the objectors to vaccination to save their children from it by announcing their objection to a magistrate before the child is four months old.

High authorities among the advocates of vaccination could be quoted to show their admission of the possibility of as many as twenty-two complications resulting from vaccination, including nine forms of skin diseases, erysipelas, tuberculosis, leprosy, and syphilis, though it is claimed that instances of the three latter are rare, and can arise only from the use of ‘humanised virus’, and that erysipelas and other serious local ‘accidents’ need not occur if a pure animal lymph is used with sufficient care – at least, so says Dr George F. Shrady, editor of the New York Medical Record (June 15, 1895); and if his position be tenable, it is fair to say that the frequency of the occurrence of serious and crippling complications of vaccination, and the occasional deaths directly traceable to it, offer damning testimony against the care and expertness of the vaccinators and the purity of the virus they use. I am not disposed to lay more than half the blame of accidents, risks, dangers, and complications upon careless operating, fully believing that with the utmost care, some proportion of vaccination would turn out badly, and some deaths occur.

[The] Sanitary Review (English) of March 1889 said: ‘Laboratory workers have about come to the conclusion that it is at present impractical to produce a sterile vaccine. The results of the use of this so-called germ-free-lymph have not secured freedom from the inflammatory complications of vaccination. On the contrary, it is the general testimony that inflammatory reactions occur in about the same proportion of cases as before this lymph was introduced.” A German official report on vaccination for the year 1894 tells of eleven deaths from this glycerinated ‘what-is-it’, and a circular of the New York Board of Health cautions those who use it not to expect entire avoidance of inflammatory complications. It therefore appears that there is no safe and pure virus, and that anyone who claims that there is, is either talking ignorantly or mendaciously.

“Thus we find,” says Mr Alexander Wheeler [in an article entitled ‘A Changing Medical Dogma’, written December 1883], “The original dogma, that one vaccination protects absolutely for life; the doctrine of 1804, that it protects with exceptions; doctrine of 1809, it gives as much protection as small-pox itself; doctrine of 1818, it does not protect absolutely, but modifies the disease; doctrine of 1868, it requires repetition, as it wears out (the doctrine of many marks, the more the merrier); doctrine of 1877 (Grayton), ‘a repeated vaccination after a certain age confers an almost absolute protection;’ doctrine of 1881 (Guy), ‘it is allowable to conjecture’ ” etc. Mr Wheeler asks, “May I not be permitted to think that a confession of absolute failure must before long close this series?”.

Two of the most effective contributions for dispelling the vaccination delusion have been the writings of Proessor E. M. Crookshank, M.D., of King’s College, London, and Dr Creighton. Both made original, deep, and thorough investigation of the subject, and have expressed themselves decidedly opposed to it in works whose scientific facts and arguments have not been disproved.

Professor Crookshank’s work on the “History of Pathology of Vaccination”, in two volumes, scientifically demolishses the theoretical foundation for vaccination, and exposes the insincerity, incapacity, and vacillation of its founder, Edward Jenner. Dr Creighton, in the last edition of the great “Encyclopaedia Brittanica”, and in special books, demonstrates the fallacy of the statistical or practical experience basis of vaccination, so that now it has no demonstrable value except what it is worth in fes for the doctors, business profits for vaccine farms, public jobs for health (?) officials, and other incidental interests.

While those who do have faith in vaccination, and desire to employ it, should have every facility for doing so, no one should be compelled by law to submit to its employment. The argument that the State may make it compulsory for the protection of the community at large loses all its value in the face of the allegation of pro-vaccinationists that vaccination affords absolute protection, for the penalty for refusing the alleged boon will only fall upon those who resist it, while those who meekly accept, according to its advocates, will be exempt from the danger of contracting small-pox.”

Hopefully, in 2124, 112 years from now, our descendants will be whistling a different tune, and shake their heads in disbelief that vaccination was ever thought of as the ‘holy grail’ it is today, and these battles were ever necessary. We have a long road ahead.