Monday, April 22, 2013

The Fight To Oppose Mandatory Vaccinations Has Been A Continuous Battle For Centuries

( A poster advertising a demonstration in Andover Town Hall in support of a Mrs. Blanchard on her release from imprisonment for refusing to allow her children to be vaccinated (date unknown). (Photo courtesy of MicroBiology Today).




I was under the false impression that controversy over vaccinations was a new phenomena, however as I was reading a biography on Thomas Jefferson, titled "A Strange Case of Mistaken Identity" by Alf Mapp Jr., I came across a passage concerning Thomas Jefferson receiving the smallpox inoculation, and the controversy surrounding this medical procedure, at the time:
"Fatalities were so numerous that doctors debated whether the disease or the supposed preventative was the greater menace...it was generally believed that inoculated persons spread smallpox to others...Inoculation was forbidden by law in New York and had excited mob action in Boston."
After doing a little research to get more information regarding this topic, I found that, in actuality, opposition to vaccination has existed as long as vaccination itself!

Even before vaccinations, it was common knowledge that survivors of smallpox became immune to the disease, so doctors were practicing a procedure called variolation, which is when a person was purposefully infected with smallpox (Variola), in a controlled manner, so as to minimize the severity of the infection, and also to induce immunity against further infection.  This procedure came under heavy criticism.

The origins of the practice of variolation, or inoculation, are hard to trace, however, we know that under the guidance of Rev. Cotton Mather, and Dr. Zabdiel Boylston, variolation became quite popular in the American colonies.  Mather went around advocating the need for immediate variolation, however, he persuaded only Dr. Boylston, and not many others.  Still, with Mather's support, Dr. Boylston immediately started a variolation program and inoculated many volunteers, despite much opposition in both the public and the medical community in Boston. As the disease spread, so did the controversy around Mather and Boylston.  At the height of the epidemic, some in opposition to the variolation procedure were urging the authorities to arrest Dr. Boylston for murder, and a grenade was even thrown into the house of Reverend Cotton Mather!

According to Thomas Jefferson biographer, Alf J. Mapp, Jr.:
"On the eve of the [American] Revolution, debate over the practice [of variolation] would further exacerbate differences between Norfolk's rebels and tories.  At the climax rebels would smash the windows of a tory mayor's residence and march the inoculated women and children of his family to the Pest House, last home of those suffering contagious terminal illnesses."

Edward Jenner
Then came a physician/scientist named Edward Jenner.  For many years, Jenner had heard the tales that dairymaids, which are women who work milking cows, making butter, and cheese, on a farm, were protected from smallpox naturally, after having suffered from cowpox.  Using this information, Jenner concluded that cowpox not only protected against smallpox, but also could be transmitted from one person to another as a deliberate mechanism of protection.  On May 14, 1796, using matter from the cowpox lesions of a dairymaid, he inoculated an 8-year-old boy, James Phipps. Afterward, the boy developed mild fever, and discomfort in the axillae, or armpit. Nine days after the procedure he felt cold and had lost his appetite, but on the next day he was much better. Jenner inoculated the boy again, this time with matter from a fresh smallpox lesion. No disease developed, and Jenner concluded that protection was complete.

The Latin word for cow is vacca, and cowpox is vaccinia; Jenner decided to call this new procedure vaccination.


Jenner's new idea of vaccination was met with immediate public criticism.  The rationale used by the anti-vaccinationists, or "anti-vacks, as Jenner would refer to them, to criticize the vaccination procedure varied, and included sanitary, religious, scientific, and political objections.

The demand for mandatory vaccination against smallpox came from the medical fraternity led by Dr Edward Seaton.  He was able to convince law makers that vaccination was universally regarded as perfectly safe, and without having any side effects. The Bill became law in August 1853, making vaccination compulsory for all infants under the age of 3 months. This Act signaled the start of organized opposition to compulsory vaccination.  Critics argued that the safety of vaccination was in doubt, and that mandatory vaccination laws were coercive and even violent.

19th century anti-vaccination satire.  Photo courtesy of Immunize USA
John Gibbs, who is credited with initiating the nationwide movement against vaccination, wrote that the Act ‘invades the liberty of the subject, and the sanctity of the home …(it) denies him possession of reason; outrages some of the finest feelings of the human heart…’.

The town of Leicester, England was a particular hotbed of anti-vaccine activity, and the site of many anti-vaccine rallies.  In this town, the first imprisonment under the 1853 Act is recorded; William Johnson served 14 days after refusing to allow his child to be vaccinated.  Supporters rewarded his courage with a silver watch. Another martyr to the cause was Ann Supple, who received 25 summonses for refusing to have her child vaccinated, preferring to face jail rather than ‘be party to the poisoning of her baby’.

In Leicester, between 1869 and 1884, 61 people were imprisoned for non-compliance with the Smallpox Acts.

A local paper described the details of one anti-vaccination rally, as reported by the HistoryofVaccines.org:
“An escort was formed, preceded by a banner, to escort a young mother and two men, all of whom had resolved to give themselves up to the police and undergo imprisonment in preference to having their children vaccinated…The three were attended by a numerous crowd…three hearty cheers were given for them, which were renewed with increased vigor as they entered the doors of the police cells.”
This Leicester Demonstration March of 1885 was one of the most notorious anti-vaccination demonstrations. There, 80,000-100,000 anti-vaccinators led an elaborate march, complete with banners, a child’s coffin, and an effigy of Jenner.  Protestors also burnt copies of the Vaccination Acts in full view of the Mayor and Chief Constable of Leicester.  The cause of the rally, according to The Times, was "...a widespread belief that death and disease have resulted from the operation of vaccination...".  

An artists rendition of the Leicester Demonstration of 1885.  Photo courtesy of Immunize USA

Eventually, the vaccination opposition was able to get a 'conscience clause' introduced, whereby parents could opt out of vaccination by applying to local magistrates for an exemption certificate. However, for many, this was not an easy option to take, because the lack of a vaccination certificate excluded people from certain housing, and elsewhere non-vaccination meant that life insurance, and employment, were that much harder to come by.  Those who chose not to vaccinate were subject to fines and other measures, such as their children not being allowed to attend school, which caused great resentment.

Vaccination, as well as critics to the procedure, eventually made its way to America.  A proffessor of physics at Harvard, named Benjamin Waterhouse, introduced vaccination in New England, and then persuaded Thomas Jefferson to try it in Virginia. Waterhouse received great support from Jefferson, who appointed him vaccine agent in the National Vaccine Institute, an organization set up to implement a national vaccination program in the United States.

In the late 19th century, the US saw a major increase in the activity of anti-vaccination movements with the formation of such groups as the Anti-Vaccination Society of America, the New England Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League, the Anti-Vaccination League of New York, and included prominent members of American society, like John Pircairn, the wealthy founder of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, author of "The Fallacy Of Vaccination" (1911), and the first President of AntiVaccination League of America.

The American anti-vaccinationists waged court battles to repeal vaccination laws in several states including California, Illinois, and Wisconsin.  In 1902, following a smallpox outbreak, the board of health of the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, mandated all city residents to be vaccinated against smallpox. City resident Henning Jacobson refused vaccination on the grounds that the law violated his right to care for his own body how he knew best. In turn, the city filed criminal charges against him.

Around the same time, in South America, November 1904 to be exact, citizens and military cadets in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, arose in protest, in what became known as Revolta da Vacina, or Vaccine Revolt.  A public official named Oswaldo Cruz convinced the Congress to approve the Mandatory Vaccination Law (October 31, 1904), which permitted sanitary brigade workers, accompanied by police, to enter homes to apply the vaccine by force.  Riots broke out on the day a vaccination law took effect.

From November 10 through 16, the city of Rio de Janeiro became a battlefield. The excited population looted shops, overturned and burned trams, made barricades, pulled out tracks, broke poles, and attacked government forces with rocks, sticks, and debris. On November 14, the cadets of the Escola Militar da Praia Vermelha (military college) also mutinied against the government’s actions. In reaction, the government suspended mandatory vaccination and declared a state of siege. The rebellion was contained, leaving 30 dead and 110 wounded. Hundreds of imprisoned people were deported to the then frontier region of Acre.

More recently there have been many well-documented cases of opposition, and controversy, in relation to vaccinations.  One popular example, from the mid 1970s, was an international controversy over the safety of the DTP immunization erupted in Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America.  A simple internet search of any vaccination, followed by the word "controversy", or "opposition", will lead you to a vast number of articles, written by medical professionals, as well as parents, discussing their beliefs, and experience with vaccinations.  I encourage everyone to do their own research, and really know what you are putting into your, or your loved ones, body.

Currently in the Connecticut state legislature, there is opposition to a bill that would force vaccinate all health care workers in the state.  Many nurses, as well as other workers in the health-care field, testified in opposition to this bill, citing previous complications with vaccines, as well as their right as a free individual to decide what goes into their bodies.

There are some "representatives", like Connecticut State Represenative Peter Tercyak, that do not believe in an individuals right to decide what goes into their own body.  In these two videos below, you can see how Rep. Tercyak feels about, and treats, people who believe they have a right to decide what goes into their own body.

CT State Representative Peter Tercyak Pushing Forced Medication Pt 1



CT State Representative Peter Tercyak Pushing Forced Medication pt 2



Also in Connecticut, State Senator Joe Markley wants to make sure employers can't require employees receive a flu shot with Senate Bill 55, AN ACT PROHIBITING EMPLOYERS FROM REQUIRING EMPLOYEES TO RECEIVE MANDATORY FLU SHOTS.


Related Stories:

  • Connecticut: Registered Nurses Speak Out Against New Bill That Would Force Vaccinate All Health Care Workers In The State - March 21, 2013 (link)
  • Forced Mental Health Assessments Being Proposed For All Children In Connecticut - March 15, 2013 (link)
  • Know Your Reps! CT State Senator Joe Markley Wants Fluoride Out Of The Water, and A Ban On Mandatory Flu Shots - March 07, 2013 (link)
  • TV Doctors Are Paid To Push Drugs and Vaccines - January 16, 2013 (link)
  • Legislators Pushing Forced Medication In Wake of CT School Shooting - December 22, 2012 (link)