The History of Anti-Vaccination Movements
The College of Physicians of Philadelphia has a fascinating article on the history of anti-vaccination movements.
Even before vaccines were invented, and the primary method of creating immunity was inoculation, there were groups opposed to intervention.
Some were opposed on religious grounds (interfering with God’s will), others on political, and still others on “you’re not the boss of me” libertarianism.
The article links to an interactive timeline of events in history from ancient days to now in the advancement of medical science surrounding vaccination and the movements that sprung up to oppose them.
The two most powerful anti-vaccination organisations actually sprung up around the smallpox vaccine in the UK and the USA. The anti-vax leagues showed people how to avoid compulsory vaccinations, engaged in civil disobedience, and spread propaganda against the scientific understanding of the day. (I’m betting someone made a bunch of money off that as well - always look for the money angle in grifting.)
The article starts:
Health and medical scholars have described vaccination as one of the top ten achievements of public health in the 20th century. Yet, opposition to vaccination has existed as long as vaccination itself (indeed, the pre-vaccination practice of variolation came under criticism as well: see our timeline for details). Critics of vaccination have taken a variety of positions, including opposition to the smallpox vaccine in England and the United States in the mid to late 1800s, and the resulting anti-vaccination leagues; as well as more recent vaccination controversies such as those surrounding the safety and efficacy of the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP) immunization, the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, and the use of a mercury-containing preservative called thimerosal.