HISTORY OF THE ANTI-VACCINE MOVEMENT 

Thanks to Social Media the Anti-Vaccine Movement has really taken off over the last few years. Generations of individuals, who have never gave immunizations a second thought are now choosing sides to defend their beliefs. But, the truth is people have been protesting vaccinations since its inception. Here is a summary of the History of the Anti-Vaccination Movement.


Widespread smallpox vaccination began in the early 1800s, following Edward Jenner’s cowpox experiments. For some parents, the smallpox vaccination itself induced fear and protest. It included scoring the flesh on a child’s arm, and inserting lymph from the blister of a person who had been vaccinated about a week earlier


The Vaccination Act of 1853 ordered mandatory vaccination for infants up to 3 months old, and the Act of 1867 extended this age requirement to 14 years, adding penalties for vaccine refusal. The laws were met with immediate resistance from citizens who demanded the right to control their bodies and those of their children. The Anti Vaccination League and the Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League formed in response to the mandatory laws, and numerous anti-vaccination journals sprang up.


The town of Leicester was a particular hotbed of anti vaccine activity and the site of many anti-vaccine rallies. The local paper described the details of a rally: “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.” The 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 (sculpture) of Jenner.


Such demonstrations and general vaccine opposition lead to the development of a commission designed to study vaccination. In 1896 the commission ruled that vaccination protected against smallpox, but suggested removing penalties for failure to vaccinate. The Vaccination Act of 1898 removed penalties and included a “conscientious objector” clause, so that parents who did not believe in vaccination’s safety or efficacy could obtain an exemption certificate

Toward the end of the 19th century, smallpox outbreaks in the United States led to vaccine campaigns and related anti-vaccine activity. The Anti Vaccination Society of America was founded in 1879, following a visit to America by leading British anti-vaccinations William Tebb. Two other leagues, the New England Anti Compulsory Vaccination League (1882) and the Anti-vaccination League of New York City (1885) followed. The American anti-vaccinationists waged court battles to repeal vaccination laws in several states including California, Illinois, and Wisconsin


https://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/articles/history-anti-vaccination-movements