Mass vaccination can be called as the single greatest achievement in the history of public health. Gone are the days when 10-day old babies died of whooping cough. Most modern societies take our average lifespan of 70 years for granted without thinking too much about the tireless efforts of countless medical professionals and numerous grassroots level campaigns that have taken place to advocate vaccination. Yet, opposition to vaccination has always existed in the form of anti-vaccination leagues and now in their modern avatar as anti-vaxxers.
It was Edward Jenner in 1796 – when he showed that he could protect a child from smallpox if he infected him/her with a lymph from a cowpox blister – who gave the impetus to widespread public vaccination. In the 1800s one could easily see the rationale behind why people were against it. Smallpox vaccination 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. Medical science has progressed in leaps and bounds since then.
In response to any government laws imposing mandatory clauses history has always sprung up a group of rebels. When the Vaccination Act of 1853 ordered mandatory vaccinations for infants and then later in 1857 when this was extended to children of upto 14 years of age, sections of the public arose in protest against the Crown violating the right to their bodies.
Towards the end of the 19th century when smallpox vaccination campaign gained momentum in the US, several anti-vaccination leagues also sprang up. William Tebb, British businessman and a leading anti-vaccination figure in 19th century England with several books on the topic came to the US in support of these leagues.
“Apart from the atomic bomb, America’s greatest fear was polio.”
In 1955, the Salk vaccine was introduced. Born in New York, Jonas Edward Salk attended New York School Of Medicine and chose to do medical research instead of praticing as a doctor.
The Salk Vaccine was, according to historian William L. O’Niell, “the most elaborate program of its kind in history, involving 20,000 physicians and public health officers, 64,000 school personnel, and 220,000 volunteers.” Over 1,800,000 school children took part in the trial. When news of the vaccine’s success was made public on April 12, 1955, Salk was hailed as a “miracle worker” and the day almost became a national holiday. [Wiki]
Such was his commitment to public health that Salk refused to patent his vaccine, a patent no doubt that would’ve made him one of the richest people in America at that time.
Readers might be interested in reading his work A New Reality: Human Evolution for a Sustainable Future
RationalWiki calls the anti-vaxx movement as “a loosely-organized conspiracy theorist subculture that blames the medical practice of vaccinations for a wide range of health problems. The movement, to a large majority led by people with no medical or scientific qualifications (or, ironically, stripped credentials), is based largely on spuriously alleged short- and long-term side effects of vaccinations. Effects which are — to boot — often trivial when compared to the severity of what were once common illnesses.”
What we are looking at now is history repeating itself. The same scare mongering tactics that were used by William Tebb is being used by arm-chair doctors and parents on social media.
We could argue that we can stop this from happening by simply refusing to listen to them. By not giving them a space to air their views. But social media, the great equaliser has proven to be a safe haven for them. Anti-vaxxers typically live in echo chambers that highlight their own beliefs. And with the way that Facebook and other social media operates it’s only a matter of time before another person stumbles upon their views and is influenced by them. Anti-vaxxers are a very vocal community. It is therefor,e very important to have as many articles and videos out there as possible to highlight their biased and wrong viewpoints.
Here are some concerning social media posts on the issue:
As you can see from these images the anti-vaxxers are gaining some momentum. What’s more alarming is that this has now spread to third world countries like India and Philippines. With how densely populated these countries are we cannot let it spread any further.
Here’s a nice gif showing how herd immunity works.
Herd immunity is the idea that if enough people get immunized against a disease, they’ll create protection for even those who aren’t vaccinated. This is important to protect those who can’t get vaccinated, like immunocompromised children. You can see in the image, low levels of vaccination lead to everyone getting infected. Medium levels slow down the progression of the illness, but they don’t offer robust protection to the unvaccinated. But once you read a high enough level of vaccination, the disease gets effectively road-blocked. It can’t spread fast enough because it encounters too many vaccinated individuals, and so the majority of the population (even the unvaccinated people) are protected. Find out more here!
Anti-vaxxers now have full fledged website like learntherisk.org and ageofautism.com. Their patron saint being Dr. Richard Moskowitz. You can read an interview with him here.
Richard Moskowitz, MD, is a family physician who received his BA from Harvard, Phi Beta Kappa, his MD from New York University, and a US Steel Fellowship in Philosophy at the University of Colorado. He has been in private practice since 1967. After studying herbs, Japanese acupuncture, and other holistic modalities, he has specialized in homeopathic medicine since 1974, and has written four previous books and over a hundred articles on homeopathy, midwifery, natural healing, and the philosophy of medicine. He resides in Boston, Massachusetts.
Japanese acupuncture. Homeopathic medicine. Well, there you have it. We have a holistic healer in our hands now. His book, Vaccines: A Reappraisal has 4-and-half stars on Amazon.
If you know an anti-vaxxer in real life share this article with them and let them know they are the weak link in the chain.