THE REVOLT AGAINST COMPULSORY VACCINATION IN INDIA.
(APPENDIX to LEPROSY AND VACCINATION by WILLIAM TEBB)
The first triennial report of the working of the vaccination department in Bengal has been recently published, and the Commissioner says that the Acts in the rural districts are practically a dead letter; vaccination is rejected by all the higher class of Hindusthe Brahmins, Marwaries, Rajputs, and Burmahswhile, among the Mahommedans, the Ferazis display the utmost repugnance to the Jennerian rite. In nearly every village, reports the Commissioner, there are families who persistently refuse vaccination, and secrete their offspring to escape the vaccinators. The Madras Mail of July 2nd, 1890, says that vaccination is very unpopular with many classes; and the Madras Times, April 16th, 1891, reports that summonses were issued against fifty-two recalcitrants for nonvaccination. At Midnapur, Bengal, where the vaccinations formerly averaged three thousand annually, the number fell to nine hundred last year.
The Allahabad Pioneer, September 23rd, 1891, says:
"The Civil Surgeon of Coconada, in his report on vaccination in that town, says that it is a common occurrence for parents to wash out the vaccine virus immediately after vaccination; and the vaccinators further assured him that the natives are in the habit of rubbing in chalk, chunam, or flour, with a view, if possible, of preventing the vesicles rising on their childrens arms."
The Times of India, July 14th, 1892, says :
"The prejudice against vaccination in Burmah seems to be growing to quite a remarkable extent. The report for 1891-92 shows that in Lower Burmah the number of cases was only 129,509, or 10,812 less than in the previous year. In one district alone, Henzada, there has been a fall in two years from 10,134 to 5180, while in the Toungoo district the figures have declined from 8905 to 3069. The Prome, Thongwa, and Thayetmyo districts are also among those which exhibit a considerable decrease, and in most cases no explanation of the decline seems to be forthcoming; while such explanations as are offered the officiating Chief Commissioner cannot regard with any satisfiction. In Upper Burmah there was an increase of some 20,000 cases, but this seems mainly due to the extension of the Act. In Upper Chindwin there was a great and unexplained decrease, and five other districts also show a decline, while in some of these and a number of other districts the people put every possible obstacle in the way of vaccination. At Katha, Mohayon, and Mobin so strong is the prejudice against arm-to-arm vaccination that the vaccinators appear to have , narrowly escaped violence at the hands of the villagers, who organised an open resistance to the system."
The Civil and Military Gazette, Lahore, August 8th, 1892, says : "It appears that the natives of Lahore are opposed to compulsory vaccination. The inhabitants of several mohallas in the city have drawn up memorials to the local Government asking that the resolution of the Municipal Committee for the introduction of compulsory vaccination in Lahore be cancelled."
The Allahabad Pioneer Mail, 6th October, 1892, under the head of Vaccination in Bengal, says : "There has been a falling off of nearly two hundred thousand, or about 11 per cent, in the number of vaccination operations performed during the past year in Bengal, as compared with the record for 1890-91. The number of operators has meanwhile increased by nearly one hundred; and an analysis shows an average decrease of about 107 cases per operator."
And in a leading article the editor observes:---
"If anti-vaccinationists can be numbered in their thousands in England, it is small wonder that they can be numbered in their millions in India."
Those familiar with the social condition of India are aware that every effort has been made to remove this dread of the operation which exists more or less all over the country. New lancets and scarifiers have been introduced, and various viruses have been experimented with, one after anothercow, calf, sheep, goat, lamb, buffalo, and donkey lymph the last, the discovery of Surgeon OHara, having been specially urged upon the attention of District Boards and municipalities by the Government. Surgeon-Major W. G. King writes to the Indian Medical Record that he is using vesicle pulp or "lanoline vaccine," which is applied by stretching the scarifications and "alternately dabbing and rubbing in the paste." Buffaloes, he observes, appear likely to yield very much more vesicle pulp than calves, but they exhale an "abominable odour," which renders the work of collecting the pulp most repulsive. The Commissioners state that only the lowest and most ignorant classes readily submit. The law enforcing vaccination in British India, which are unparalleled for their severity, were passed without the consent and against the wishes of the people, whose objection to vaccination arises from a knowledge often gained by sad and bitter experience. They know that the fearful spread of leprosy in India and other countries is coincident with and, as they believe, due to the extension of vaccination, and they prefer to face the seventies of the law, with its ruinous judicial penalties, or even to risk the dangers of the jungle, where they are sometimes compelled to seek refuge for their little ones, to the risks of this hideous and destructive scourge. That leprosy, confessed to be incurable, is inoculated by vaccination (a fact once vehemently denied) is now reluctantly admitted by the leading dermatologists of all countries, and by the most experienced chiefs of the leper asylums and public health departments in the West Indies, in South America, South Africa, and in the Sandwich Islands
The Madras Times, May 18th, 1892, says :
"Every effort is probably made to obtain pure and healthy lymph, but if the causation of leprosy has not yet been satisfactorily traced, no guarantee can be provided against the presence of the germs of the disease in the lymph used for purposes of vaccination."