[back] Anti-Vaccination

[Some comments, in red, on a medical industry propaganda piece.]

BMJ 2002;325:430-432 ( 24 August )

Education and debate

Anti-vaccinationists past and present

Robert M Wolfe, assistant professorLisa K Sharp, assistant professor

Department of Family Medicine, Northwestern University's Feinberg Medical School, Morton Building 1-658, 303 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611-3008, USA

Correspondence to: R M Wolfe r-wolfe@northwestern.edu

The British Vaccination Act of 1840 was the first incursion of the state, in the name of public health, into traditional civil liberties. The activities of today's propagandists against immunisations are directly descended from, indeed little changed from, those of the anti-vaccinationists of the late nineteenth century, say Robert Wolfe and Lisa Sharp

Much attention has been given on the internet to the "anti-vaccination" movement---using vaccination in its wider sense of "any immunisation"---and its possible harmful effects on uptake rates of immunisations. Many observers believe that the movement is something new and a consequence of concerns arising from the large number of immunisations now given, but concern over vaccination began shortly after the introduction of smallpox vaccination and has continued unabated ever since. Methods of disseminating information have changed since the 19th century, but the concerns and activities of anti-vaccination movements in the United Kingdom and their counterparts in the United States have changed little since then. The historian Martin Kaufman, writing about anti-vaccination movements in 19th and early 20th century America, concluded his paper with this comment, "With the improvements in medical practice and the popular acceptance of the state and federal governments' role in public health, the anti-vaccinationists slowly faded from view, and the movement collapsed."1 We hope that a brief historical examination of anti-vaccination sentiments will give medical professionals a better sense of perspective about the groups opposing immunisations and their arguments.

Summary points

Edward Jenner was largely responsible for introducing vaccination to the medical community, and widespread vaccination began in the early 1800s

Vaccination acts passed between 1840 and 1853 made vaccination compulsory in Britain, and almost immediately anti-vaccination leagues challenged the law as a violation of civil liberty  Their main complaint was their assertion the vaccine was useless, and unsafe.  This is typical vaccine spin, making out it was purely to do with civil liberties, or a moral issue, seen all the time with vivisection.

In 1898 the vaccination law was amended to allow exemption for parents, based on conscience, which introduced the concept of "conscientious objector" into English law

Anti-vaccination groups have continued into the 21st century and are highly visible on the internet, presenting arguments remarkably similar to those of the 19th century  
Widespread vaccination began in the early 1800s following Edward Jenner's presentation of an article to the Royal Society of London in 1796 detailing his success in preventing smallpox in 13 people by inoculation with live infectious material from the pustules or scabs of people infected with cowpox. The process induced cowpox, a mild viral disease that conferred immunity to smallpox. Jenner called the cowpox material "vaccine" (from vacca, the Latin for cow) and the process vaccination. Although Jenner did not discover vaccination,2 he was the first person to confer scientific status on the procedure and was chiefly responsible for popularising it.3

Jenner thought cowpox was horse grease transferred to the cow on the hands of farriers.  He thought horse grease was the only prevention of smallpox.  Pearson was the man who popularised cowpox vaccination (he refused to use horse grease), and got it off the ground.  Jenner fell in with Pearson's use of cowpox, and horse grease protection was dropped.  Jenner never gave up his belief that horse grease was the 'true protection' See: Jenner]

    The Vaccination Acts (1840-98) and resistance to vaccination

In the United Kingdom, the Vaccination Act of 1840 provided free vaccinations for the poor and outlawed "inoculation," which at that time meant "variolation," inoculation of smallpox material (usually at an unobtrusive site, to prevent later disfigurement by natural infection). The Vaccination Act of 1853 made vaccination compulsory for all infants in the first three months of life and made defaulting parents liable to a fine or imprisonment. The Act of 1867 extended the compulsory vaccination requirement to age 14, with cumulative penalties for non-compliance. These laws were a political innovation that extended government powers into areas of traditional civil liberties in the name of public health.4

Resistance to these laws began immediately after passage of the 1853 law, with violent riots in Ipswich, Henley, Mitford, and several other towns.5 The founding of the Anti-Vaccination League in London in the same year provided a nucleus for opponents of vaccination. After the 1867 law was passed its opponents focused concern upon the infringement of personal liberty and choice. The Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League was founded in 1867 in response to the new law, with a seven point mission statement on the masthead of its newsletter, the National Anti-Compulsory Vaccination Reporter, beginning:

I. It is the bounden duty of parliament to protect all the rights of man.
II. By the vaccination acts, which trample upon the right of parents to protect their children from disease, parliament has reversed its function.
III. As parliament, instead of guarding the liberty of the subject, has invaded this liberty by rendering good health a crime, punishable by fine or imprisonment, inflicted on dutiful parents, parliament is deserving of public condemnation.
William Hume-Rothery, president, 1878, Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League.6

See the bit above and then read the bit below, to see how it tries to make out it was a moral and civil liberties argument (hippy brigade), when in fact it was mostly a science one.

The movement grew, and as the influence of the London Society soon became national in its character it was decided in February 1896 to re-form the Society as "The National Anti-Vaccination League." Its objectives were also then defined as follows:—

The entire repeal of the Vaccination Acts; the disestablishment and disendowment of the practice of vaccination; and the abolition of all regulations in regard to vaccination as conditions, of employment in State Departments, or of admission to Educational, or other Institutions.

In 1921 the following clause was added:— and vindication of the legitimate freedom of the subject in matters of medical treatment.

An epitome of the chief points against Compulsory Vaccination will be found in the following resolutions agreed to by the Executive Committee of the International Anti-Vaccination League, at the close of the Congress held in Paris, in December, 1880, at which delegates representing France, Belgium, Holland, Prussia, Würtemburg, Switzerland, England, and the United States were present:--
  • FIRST.—That small-pox epidemics do not increase the general death-rate; that when small-pox is rife there is less typhoid fever, scarlet fever, measles, whooping cough, and other zymotic diseases; and that, generally speaking, the total mortality increases as small-pox mortality diminishes.
  • SECOND.—That the diminution of small-pox mortality at the beginning of the present century could not have been due to Vaccination, as JENNER’s discovery was but very little practised. When that result was claimed for it, not more than 1 1/2 per cent, of the entire population in England were vaccinated, and in 1812 less than one per cent. of the population on the Continent. The diminution of small-pox was mainly due to the cessation of small-pox inoculation, and small-pox mortality diminished when the disease ceased to be propagated.
  • THIRD.—That the official returns shew that since Vaccination has been rigorously enforced, the rate of mortality from epidemic small-pox has increased.
  • FOURTH.—That the small-pox hospital returns, both in Europe and America, prove that Vaccination has neither prevented nor mitigated the severity of the disorder. The observations of REES, JURIN, DUVILLARD, etc., shew that the rate of fatality per cent, of those attacked before JENNER’S time was "one in six." The cases on which this result was based being many thousands. Recent Hospital statistics shew that the fatality to-day is still "one in six," the cases being more numerous, and the majority of them vaccinated. The disease is therefore unchecked and unchanged as regards fatality.
  • FIFTH.—That since Vaccination has been rendered obligatory, infantile syphilis (under one year old) has been increased in England, according to a Parliamentary return, dated February 25th, 1880, from 472 per million of births in 1847, to 1,736 per million in 1877, or fourfold; and that other inoculable diseases, such as pyaemia, scrofula, erysipelas, and bronchitis, were also augmented in infants. In England, the increase of inoculable diseases was 20 per cent., notwithstanding an expenditure of 200 millions sterling since 1850 in sanitary works. Another Parliamentary return (No. 443, Session 1877) demonstrates that 25,000 babies are yearly sacrificed by diseases excited by Vaccination.
  • SIXTH—That from the exceeding difficulty of finding a case of spontaneous cow-pox, the vaccinating profession cannot possess a standard of purity in lymph; and that no analysis, or microscopic examination, or medical experience, can enable a vaccinator to distinguish pure from impure lymph, nor can the appearance of the vesicle of the vaccinifer be relied upon to indicate freedom from taint of syphilitic or other disease. A subject highly syphilised can shew vaccine vesicles, according to Dr. WARLOMONT, "perfectly irreproachable" in appearance.
  • SEVENTH.—That many diseases to which animals are liable, and particularly tubercle, are transmissible by means of so-called Animal Vaccination to man, according to Veterinary Surgeons, and that the great increase in Consumption in Europe was probably owing to this cause.
  • EIGHTH.—Dr. H. OIDTMANN, of Aix la Chapelle, has proved by official returns from the towns of Cologne, Dusseldorf, Duren, Elberfeld, Lieghitz, Treves, Wesel, and other places, that Vaccination does not afford even a temporary protection against small-pox, but on the contrary, on the outbreaks of small-pox, there is large and constant priority amongst those attacked, of the vaccinated and re-vaccinated, over those who have escaped Vaccination.
  • LASTLY.—That in view of the confusion of opinion which prevails in every medical assembly amongst the so-called authorities, whenever the subject of Vaccination is discussed, it is unwise, impolitic, unjust, and tyrannical to enforce Vaccination; that such enforcement retards all improvement in the treatment, and all discoveries for the prevention of small-pox; and that all Compulsory Legislation with regard to Vaccination ought to be repealed.

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).4 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.7

Nonsense.  Huge epidemics followed compulsory vaccination.  Smallpox was dying out until variolation and then vaccination kept it going.  Leicester showed vaccination was not only useless and dangerous, but that sanitation was the main case and the best treatment.

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 as well as to hear evidence in favour of vaccination. The commission sat for seven years, hearing extensive testimony from opponents and supporters of vaccination. Its report in 1896 concluded that vaccination protected against smallpox, but as a gesture to the anti-vaccinationists it recommended the abolition of cumulative penalties. A new Vaccination Act in 1898 removed cumulative penalties and introduced a conscience clause, allowing parents who did not believe vaccination was efficacious or safe to obtain a certificate of exemption. This act introduced the concept of the "conscientious objector" into English law. 8 9

Any way to avoid an idiotic law, but it gives legs to the lie that the main objection was "conscience", religion or some moral argument.

The Vaccination Monster


A mighty and horrible monster, with the horns of a bull, the hind of a horse, the jaws of a krakin, the teeth and claws of a tyger, the tail of a cow, all the evils of Pandora's box in his belly, plague, pestilence, leprosy, purple blotches, foetid ulcers, and filthy running sores covering his body, and an atmosphere of accumulated disease, pain and death around him, has made his appearance in the world, and devores mankind ---especially poor helpless infants---not by sores only, or hundreds, or thousands, but by hundreds of thousands (vide Vaccinae Vindicia: 413, 423).

This monster has been named vaccination; and his progressive havoc among the human race, has been dreadful and most alarming.

Yet, strange to tell, this monster has found not only a multitude of friends but worshipers, who prostrate themselves before him, and encourage his voracious appetite.

Do not the men, the heroes---who first dared to stand forth to arrest the progress, and stop the fatal havoc of this most dreadful and destructive monster, and at length have bravely subdued and put him to flight with all his mighty host, merit an obelisk created to their fame, with their names inscribed upon it, in indelible characters, to be held in grateful remembrance through all future generations?


London, 1807

"Nothing New Under The Sun" from the Vaccine Damage Prevention website. (Accessed 8 Aug 2002)

See a better pic http://www.whale.to/v/vaccination.html

    North America

Anti-vaccination activity also increased in the United States towards the end of the 19th century; widespread vaccination in the early part the century had contained smallpox outbreaks, and vaccination fell into disuse. However, in the 1870s the disease became epidemic owing to the susceptibility of the population. As states attempted to enforce existing vaccination laws or pass new ones, vigorous anti-vaccination movements arose. In 1879, after a visit to New York by William Tebb, the leading British anti-vaccinationist, the Anti-Vaccination Society of America was founded. Subsequently, the New England Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League was formed in 1882 and the Anti-Vaccination League of New York City in 1885. Using pamphlets, court battles, and vigorous fights on the floors of state legislatures, the anti-vaccinationists succeeded in repealing compulsory vaccination laws in California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. A continual battle was waged between public health authorities and anti-vaccinationists, with the anti-vaccinationists battling vaccination in the courts and instigating riots in Montreal and Milwaukee.1

    Anti-vaccinationists in two centuries

Towards the end of the 20th century, a wave of anti-vaccination activity led to an increase in media interest in the arguments attacking childhood immunisations. We have culled arguments from the present-day anti-vaccination movement and compared them with those of its 19th century counterparts (box A on bmj.com) which the anti-vaccination headings are taken chiefly from a study by Leask and Chapman of anti-vaccination themes as expressed in the press.10 Box B on bmj.com summarises the characteristics and impact of the anti-vaccination movement, comparing the late 19th century with late 20th century. These show uncanny similarities, suggesting an unbroken transmission of core beliefs and attitudes over time.

"Uncanny"?  Junk science.  It didn't work then, and it doesn't work now.

Towards a solution to the controversy?

"The insistent questioners of mainstream practice will not go away and will not be silenced. They will trouble majorities. The wise goal is to promote understanding that can at least see to it that the troubling is creative and not merely disruptive." (Martin E Marty, theologian)

These comparisons emphasise that, regardless of how the medical establishment feels about anti-vaccinationists, it is important to understand that they have deeply held beliefs, often of a spiritual or philosophical nature,11 and these beliefs have remained remarkably constant over the better part of two centuries. The movement encompasses a wide range of individuals, from a few who express conspiracy theories, to educated, well informed consumers of health care, who often have a complex rationale for their beliefs, related to a "mixture of world views held about the environment, healing, holism . . . and a critical reading of the scientific and alternative literature."12

"often of a spiritual or philosophical natureThe argument against vaccination is mostly scientific.  This suggests the argument is purely on moral grounds, which is the same tack used by animal experimenters.

Vaccination is unique among de facto mandatory requirements in the modern era, requiring individuals to accept the injection of a medicine or medicinal agent into their bodies, and it has provoked a spirited opposition. This opposition began with the first vaccinations, has not ceased, and probably never will. From this realisation arises a difficult issue: how should the mainstream medical authorities approach the anti-vaccination movement? A passive reaction could be construed as endangering the health of society, whereas a heavy handed approach can threaten the values of individual liberty and freedom of expression that we cherish. This creative tension will not leave us and cannot be cured by force alone.


Funding: None.

Competing interests: None declared. (Oh yeah!)

Two boxes appear on bmj.com

1. Kaufman M. The American anti-vaccinationists and their arguments. Bull Hist Med 1967; 41: 463-478[Medline].
2. Horton R. Myths in medicine: Jenner did not discover vaccination. BMJ 1995; 310: 62[Free Full Text].
3. Barquet N, Domingo P. Smallpox: the triumph over the most terrible of the ministers of death. Ann Intern Med 1997; 127: 635-642.
4. Porter D, Porter R. The politics of prevention: anti-vaccinationism and public health in nineteenth-century England. Med Hist 1988; 32: 231-252[ISI][Medline].
5. Scarpelli G. `Nothing in nature that is not useful': the anti-vaccination crusade and the idea of harmonia naturae in Alfred Russel Wallace. Nuncius 1992; 7: 109-130[Medline].
6. Hume-Rothery W. Light for electors. National Anti-Compulsory Vaccination Reporter (Cheltenham, England) 1878;3(Dec 1):1.
7. Nelson MC, Rogers J. The right to die? Anti-vaccination activity and the 1874 smallpox epidemic in Stockholm. Soc Hist Med 1992; 5: 369-388[ISI].
8. Swales JD. The Leicester anti-vaccination movement. Lancet 1992; 340: 1019-1021[ISI][Medline].
9. Williamson S. Anti-vaccination leagues. Arch Dis Childhood 1984; 59: 1195-1196[ISI][Medline].
10. Leask J, Chapman S. `An attempt to swindle nature': press anti-immunisation reportage 1993-1997. Aust N Z J Public Health 1998; 22: 17-26[ISI][Medline].
11. Wolfe RM, Sharp LK. Acts of faith: religion, medicine, and the anti-vaccination movement. Park Ridge Center Bulletin. 2000; Jul-Aug:9-10.
12. Rogers A, Pilgrim D. The pros and cons of immunisation---paper one: immunisation and its discontents: an examination of dissent from the UK mass childhood immunisation programme. Healthcare Analysis 1995; 3: 99-107.
Box A: Anti-vaccination arguments, past and present

Vaccines cause idiopathic illness

1878 The National Anti-Compulsory Vaccination Reporter (Cheltenham, England)—Among the dangerous illnesses following the vaccine process are diphtheria, erysipelas, and not unfrequently abscesses. [To which we may add diarrhoæ, bronchitis, convulsions, &c. B Ed. [1878]] On the whole it is a greater evil to humanity than small-pox itself!

2001 Anti-vaccination websites—The documented long term adverse effects of vaccines include chronic immunological and neurological disorders such as autism, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorders, dyslexia, allergies, cancer, and other conditions, many of which barely existed 30 years ago before mass vaccination programs. (www.unc.edu/~aphillip/www/chf/myths/dvm27.htm)

Unholy alliance for profit

1878 — Medical despotism, founded in a wicked desire to rule over others … has given birth to the Vaccination Acts, which deny to parents the right to keep their own children in health …Friends, this medical despotism is a hard, materialistic, infidel thing … But it could have had no influence except through Parliament. It is by its unholy alliance with Parliament that it has been able to bring forth its dangerous brood.

2001—With an ACIP [Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices [US Government]] recommendation in hand, vaccine manufacturers use the government to say "you must buy my product and inject it into your body, even if it kills you or causes brain damage." (http://whale.to/v/belkin.html)

Vaccines as poisonous chemical cocktails

1878—The mind that cultivates small-pox by vaccination is now engaged in the suppression of small-pox by saturating the small-pox with carbolic acid, which is a virulent poison. This poison being absorbed by the absorbents enters the blood, and the natural secretions are tainted by it.

2001—The vaccines contain not only live viruses but also very significant amounts of highly toxic substances such as mercury, aluminum and formaldehyde. Could this be the reason for the upsurge in autism, ADHD, asthma, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, lupus and other chronic disorders? (http://web.archive.org/web/20011019140710/http://www.house.gov/reform/hearings/healthcare/00.06.04/rimland.htm)

Cover up

1878—Vaccine partisans are afraid of the "search after truth," and they fear the unveiling of error. Therefore do they close their eyes to facts and their ears to enquiry.

2001—The cover-up of immune system failure following vaccination is reminiscent of the tobacco industry’s continuous denial and misinformation campaign about the dangers of cigarettes. (www.healthy.net/asp/templates/article.asp?PageType=Article&ID=539)

Towards totalitarianism

1878— The vaccination law not only insults every subject of the realm, but it insults every human being … We must war against all despotism, injustice and tyranny wherever they exist.

2001—The Orwellian spectacle of monopolistic and oligopolistic pharmaceutical manufacturers subverting government agencies to ram unsafe products down children’s veins is a violation of the basic principals of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. (http://whale.to/v/belkin.html)

Vaccine immunity is temporary

1878—If the duration of protection be limited, as we are now told, to somewhere between 3 and 7 years, how long can the repetition of the short-lived protection be expected to guard us?

2001—Immunity, after the disease, is lifelong, you can’t get it again. This [hepatitis A] vaccine (83% effective) requires multiple boosters throughout life. Vaccine manufacturers make a regular income on each person receiving the vaccine. This vaccine changes the epidemiology of the disease! (http://members.aol.com/_ht_a/mccfhc/hepAFACTS.htm)

Vaccines are ineffective

1878—The universal belief and hope of the early enthusiasts that the cow-pox would stamp out small-pox, is probably now held by no man of sense or discernment. Epidemics still continue to break out, and the sternest compulsory laws neither reduce their number nor their intensity. 

2001—VACCINATION TRUTH #2: "Epidemiological studies have shown that vaccination has been unreliable as a means of preventing disease." (www.unc.edu/~aphillip/www/chf/myths/dvm12.htm)

Healthy lifestyle alternative

1878—Is not vaccination a substitute, necessarily futile, for faithful obedience to the sacred laws of health, whereby alone health can be conserved and disease prevented?

2001— … personal hygiene and diet stop diseases, folks, not injecting virulent free-floating genetic material into your veins with all kinds of poisonous cancerous carrying agents which is what vaccines are. (www.gval.com/loglia.htm)


Box B: Anti-vaccination movements past and present

Anti-vaccination activity

Late 19th century—Anti-vaccinationists campaign against smallpox vaccination, citing vaccine safety issues, vaccine failures, infringement of personal liberty, and an unholy alliance between the medical establishment and the government to reap huge profits for the medical establishment at the expense of the public

Late 20th century—Anti-vaccinationists campaign against vaccination, citing vaccine safety issues, vaccine failures, infringement of personal liberty, and an unholy alliance between the medical establishment and the government to reap huge profits for the medical establishment at the expense of the public

Yes, vaccination continues purely due to financial reasons.

"Vaccinations are now carried out for purely commercial reasons because they fetch huge profits for the pharmaceutical industry......There is no scientific evidence that vaccinations are of any benefit, but it is clear that they cause a great deal of harm...Today there are 800,000 children and youngsters under the age of 15 years (Germany) with asthma. 800,000!  Neurodermitis, once a rare complaint, has become so common that there are several support networks with many thousands of members.  The 'Frankenpost' of April 2004 reported an estimated 27 million people now suffer from hayfever, neurodermitis and allergic asthma in Germany."---Dr Buchwald (The Decline of Tuberculosis despite "Protective" Vaccination by Dr. Gerhard Buchwald M.D. p130, 132, 134.)

Anti-vaccination literature

19th century—Anti-vaccinationists distribute information in a wide variety of formats, including newspaper articles and letters, books, journals, and pamphlets to warn against the dangers of vaccination.  Rarely into media.  Media is always pro-vaccine propagandist

20th century—Anti-vaccinationists distribute information in a wide variety of formats, including newspaper articles and letters, books, journals, and pamphlets to warn against the dangers of vaccination   Anti-vaccinists VERY RARELY, if at all,  get  into the media.  It is always milder vaccine critics, but usually only vaccine reaction stories by journalists.

"It is to this indifference that I ascribe the fact that, with two or three exceptions, all the London daily papers, morning and evening, ignored the publication of the book altogether."---Arthur Hutton, author of The vaccination Question 1895.

The only media investigation into a childhood vaccine, of any note, was the Fresno Bee DPT vaccine report of 1984.

No books ever gets into the bookshops or public or school libraries.  A recent search of the Hereford county library system revealed NONE.

Anti-vaccination membership

19th century—Typical membership:1 4

1. Those who feel smallpox vaccination is ineffective

2. Persons who believed their relatives had suffered injury or death due to vaccination

3. Persons opposed to compulsory vaccination as an infringement of basic human rights

4. Proponents of alternative medical practice and theory, especially homoeopaths. Herbalists, chiropractors, and hydropaths

20th century—Typical membership: 1. Those who feel that some or all vaccinations are ineffective or unsafe

2. Persons who believe their relatives had suffered injury or death due to vaccination

3. Persons opposed to compulsory vaccination as an infringement of basic human rights

4. Proponents of alternative medical practice and theory, such as homoeopathy, herbal therapy, and chiropractic also naturopathy.  Anti-vax usually follow the pleomorphic Bechamp disease theory which invalidates vaccination.

Government hearings

19th century—The Royal Commission of the British Government [1889-1896], investigating the grievances of the anti-vaccination movement, hears testimony on vaccine safety and effectiveness from a large number of anti-vaccinationists and pro-vaccinationists

20th century—The United States Congress [106th Congress, 1999-2000] House Committee on Government Reform, investigating the grievances of the anti-vaccination movement, hears testimony on vaccine safety and effectiveness from a large number of anti-vaccinationists and pro-vaccinationistsw1

Not true, most, if not all, could be described as "vaccine critics", not "anti-vaccinists". See http://www.whale.to/v/burton1.html  "Anti-vaccine" has become a pejorative term, so few would want to be described as that, even if they were.

Medical establishment response to anti-vaccinationists

19th century—Fearing the outbreak of new epidemics due to a drop in vaccine uptake (smallpox), medical authorities call for stronger efforts to increase vaccination rates

20th century— Fearing the outbreak of new epidemics due to a drop in vaccine uptake (pertussis, measles), medical authorities call for stronger efforts to increase vaccination rates

Effects of anti-vaccination ideas

19th century—Anti-vaccination activity leads to drop of smallpox vaccination rate in Stockholm, Sweden to just over 40% of the population by 1872 (uptake approached 90% elsewhere in Sweden). Epidemic in Stockholm in 1874 leads to rise in vaccine uptake and an end of major smallpox epidemics in Sweden7

Utter drivel.  See the vaccine failure http://www.whale.to/vaccine/smallpox3.html

In England, compulsory vaccination against smallpox was first introduced in 1852, yet in the period 1857 to 1859, a smallpox epidemic killed 14,244 people. In 1863 to 1865, a second epidemic claimed 20,059 lives. In 1867, a more stringent compulsory vaccination law was passed and those who evaded vaccination were prosecuted. After an intensive tour year effort to vaccinate the entire population between the ages of 2 - 50, the Chief Medical Officer of England announced in May 1871 that 97.5% had been vaccinated. In the following year, 1872, England experienced its worst ever smallpox epidemic which claimed 44,840 lives. Between 1871-1880, during the period of compulsory vaccination, the death rate from smallpox leapt from 28 to 46 per 100,000 population.

20th century—Anti-vaccination activity, raising concerns over vaccine safety, leads to drop in pertussis vaccine uptake in United Kingdom from 81% in late 1960s to 31% by mid-1970s. Pertussis epidemics followed; rise in uptake to 93% ends epidemics w2

All vaccine success stories end up full of holes, when you look into it.

  1. United States House of Representatives, Committee on Government Reform. http://web.archive.org/web/20011215074423/http://www.house.gov/reform/hearings/index.htm, www.house.gov/reform/cj/hearings/99.9.28/index.htm, and www.house.gov/reform/cj/hearings/99.5.18/index.htm (accessed 4 Dec 2001)
  2. Gangarosa EJ, Galazka AM, Wolfe CR, Phillips LM, Miller E, Chen RT. Impact of anti-vaccine movements on pertussis control: the untold story. Lancet 1998;351:356-61.