Mark Strauss talks about the early anti vaccination movement and little it has changed. They use many of the same arguments today.
More than 150 years ago, the British government made smallpox vaccination compulsory, resulting in a massive political backlash. Opponents used tactics and arguments that are familiar today. If anything, the contemporary anti-vaxxer has regressed even further.
Widespread vaccination had begun in the early 1800s, after Edward Jenner presented his findings to the Royal Society of London in 1796, detailing his success in preventing smallpox by inoculation with infectious material. The Vaccination Act of 1853 made vaccination compulsory for all infants — parents who refused could face stiff fines and even imprisonment.
Widespread resistance began almost immediately, with violent riots in several towns — some of which didn’t even enforce the law. A group called the Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League was formed, publishing journals and pamphlets about the dangers of vaccination.