Explain the Procedure of Smallpox Vaccination and the Compulsory Vaccination Acts Based on Nadja Durbach’s Article
Vaccinations have been a triumph of modern medicine and public health. Across the globe they have reduced rates of infant mortality and contributed to increasing life expectancy. Why, then, in the 21st century would there be a significant backlash against vaccinations, even as measles and polio have re-appeared in places where they had been eradicated?
Smallpox inarguably shaped the course of human history by killing countless millions in both the Old World and the New World. Dr. Edward Jenner's discovery of vaccination in the late 18th century, and the global eradication of smallpox in the 1970s, rank among the greatest achievements in human history. Amidst recent growing concerns about bioterrorism, smallpox vaccination has resurfaced from the history books to become a topic of major importance. Inoculation with vaccinia virus is highly effective for the prevention of smallpox infection, but it is associated with several known side effects that range from mild and self-limited to severe and life-threatening. As the United States moves forward with plans to vaccinate selected health care workers and the military, and perhaps offer the vaccination to all citizens in the future, it is important to fully understand and appreciate the history, risks, and benefits of smallpox vaccination.
A large number of anti-vaccination tracts, books, and journals appeared in the 1870s and 1880s. The journals included the Anti-Vaccinator (founded 1869), the National Anti-Compulsory Vaccination Reporter (1874), and the Vaccination Inquirer (1879). Similar movements flourished elsewhere in Europe. In Stockholm, the majority of the population began to refuse vaccination, so that by 1872 vaccination rates in Stockholm had fallen to just over 40%, whereas they approached 90% in the rest of Sweden. Fearing a serious epidemic, the chief city physician, Dr C A Grähs, demanded stricter measures. A major epidemic in 1874 shocked the city and led to widespread vaccination and an end to further epidemics. In Great Britain, pressure from the anti-vaccination movement was increasing. After a massive anti-vaccination demonstration in Leicester in 1885 that attracted up to 100 000 people, a royal commission was appointed to investigate the anti-vaccination grievances.
In the end, it may be that the anti-vaccination movement deserves the condescension of posterity more than the plaudits of post-modernity offered by Durbach. At least in its resistance to the denial of individual freedom in the compulsory vaccination policy, the nineteenth century movement reflected a libertarian impulse. Today's reactionary and misguided campaigns lack even this redeeming feature.
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