October 14, 2021 – Even as the fourth wave of COVID-19 cases trends down, one aspect of the pandemic is still going strong: differing opinions about the value of COVID-19 immunization and vaccine mandates across the United States
Strong feelings about vaccination are nothing new. Claims linking the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism and resistance to the measles vaccination that caused the outbreak in California are recent examples.
For example, people who opposed smallpox vaccination ran ads, wrote to newspapers, and formed anti-vaccine organizations, as seen in news clippings from the 1860s to the 1950s.
In other words, although the anger over vaccines seems like a recent experience, controversies throughout history reveal many similarities.
“There are a lot of similarities — many of the exact same arguments,” says Anna Kirkland, PhD, director of the Institute for Women and Gender Research at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
“Some of the differences now are the stark party-party political alliances that we’re seeing under COVID, which were in some ways before but have become very prominently organized by the party,” she says. “These are just differences in degree, though, because there has long been anti-government support for anti-vaccine sentiment.”
For example, the American Anti-Vaccination Society was founded in 1879. Its public campaign against mandatory smallpox vaccination used language about personal liberties that might sound familiar today: “Freedom cannot be given, it must be taken.”
The community was part of a larger movement that also questioned the motivations behind promoting the smallpox vaccine.
“The anti-vaccination movement has questioned data from health authorities, accusing politicians, doctors and drug companies of conspiring to act in their economic interests rather than health considerations,” notes MyHeritage, which maintains an archive of pro- and anti-vaccine news clippings.
says Roy Mandel, chief researcher at MyHeritage.
Other historians point out that the anti-vaccination movement in the United States began in the 1850s with the announcement of mandates for the smallpox vaccine.
Joseph B. wrote. Report Human vaccines and immunotherapies.
“Unfortunately, anti-vaccination activism helped drive a significant drop in immunization rates, which led to a resurgence of smallpox only two decades later,” they said.
“The main reason for refusing vaccination in the twenty-first century in the United States is very similar to that of the nineteenth centuryNS UK Century,” says Jose Esparza, MD, assistant professor in the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Some studies indicate that the number of people completely opposed to the vaccine is no more than 4% of the population, he said. But the proportion can vary from country to country and community to community, says Esparza, who is also a senior consultant with Global Virus Network in Baltimore.
“A very important point is that anti-vaccines are fed by a very noisy but small minority,” he says. “Interestingly, the only reason for vaccine refusal that emerged as a dominant cause is related to ‘resistance to compulsory vaccination.'”
This also reflects a “political position that defends an individual’s right to choose,” he said.
However, history shows that “compulsory” vaccinations can be successful.
“States of sorts were usually part of the solution,” Kirkland says.
Differences between countries
Smallpox vaccination policies vary by state as well, which is another parallel to today’s COVID-19 pandemic.
Massachusetts was the first to impose compulsory vaccination in 1809. Washington, D.C. and eight other states later joined in requiring infant vaccinations.
Other state officials opposed such mandates, and by 1930 Arizona, Utah, North Dakota, and Minnesota had passed laws against vaccination requirements for their residents.
A total of 35 states have no legislation for or against the mandates, and instead have allowed local authorities to regulate such actions.
The United States Supreme Court eventually heard the case of compulsory vaccination in 1905. Jacobson v. Massachusetts set a legal precedent by finding that individual liberty does not supersede actions required of the public interest.
“Liberty guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States does not imply an absolute right of every person to be at all times, and in all circumstances, wholly free from restraint, nor is it an element of such liberty that one person, or a minority of persons residing in any society and enjoying the benefits of its local government shall have the power to control the majority when the power of the state supports it in its work.”
The 1905 case during the COVID-19 pandemic was cited in support of requests for face masks and requests to stay at home.
Parents who oppose vaccinating their children are nothing new.
For example, a newspaper in Meridian, CT, reported in 1915 that a father was imprisoned rather than pay a fine for not allowing his children to be vaccinated.
Even after his friends paid $15.75 to get him released from county jail, the man “didn’t change his mind,” according to a newspaper clip.
Eighty years before the advent of Facebook and other social media platforms, different opinions were often broadcast in newspapers. For example, an open letter in the format evening news From Hawaii on June 26, 1924, it was called “To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate: Antivaccine Responses.”
The anonymous writer stated that doctors “have been led to believe that vaccination is a safe and rational way – the only way – to eradicate smallpox. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
“Instead of protecting its victims from smallpox, vaccination actually makes them more vulnerable to infection by contaminating the blood and reducing natural resistance,” the author said.
The message sparked a familiar takeaway that healthy people don’t need to worry about getting sick:
“Smallpox is a filthy disease closely followed by flagrant violations of hygiene and health laws. No person is liable to contract smallpox or any other filthy disease, as long as he is healthy.
“Every human being can be protected from smallpox if he has enough air, sunlight, healthy work, good food, and an interest in life. These confer immunity.”
The newspaper’s editor, Lorian A. Thurston, saying, “I believe that anti-vaccination advocates are wrong – totally and completely – and that their persistent and extreme anti-vaccination propaganda may eventually mislead many who know best, neglecting or against vaccination, to the harm and possible death of themselves and the numbers of innocent members of society.”
Thurston acknowledges the dangers involved in print and thus draws attention to anti-vaccination “propaganda”, but adds “a great aversion” to prevent full and free discussion on any topic.
Opinions in favor of vaccination
Newspaper clippings from earlier times also highlight pro-vaccine sentiment.
stern piece in Star Tribune On April 17, 1903, for example, he expressed his frustration with the anti-vaccine movement. The author notes that people who are against vaccinations are also more likely to die from smallpox.
“The state can do nothing to save men who are bent on ‘dying like a foolish Diet,’ except to prevent them from sharing their fate with others. That is the purpose of the Compulsory Vaccination Act, which seems unjust to many…” the states piece.
The author adds that if the anti-vaccator “is intent on evading the ‘law of compulsory vaccination’, he can do so in a hundred ways. But the law of nature will reach it sooner or later. There is no evasion in that.”
Promote positive examples
One method used to promote a larger vaccine has been to publish reports of people responding to the call for a smallpox vaccine. for example, the star A newspaper in Canada highlighted how Toronto’s Jewish community reached for vaccinations in November 1919.
The controversy over the polio vaccine continued into the 1950s, leading health officials to call on doctors, community leaders, and celebrities to help counter anti-vaccine sentiment.
Controversies also came to a head after Jonas Salk, MD, announced the successful test of a new polio vaccine on March 26, 1953.
Boston Post She reported calls from doctors, public health organizations and charities for people to get vaccinated, for example. Also, the March of Dimes ad showed a parade of Disney characters singing “Hey, hey, we’re going to lick polio.”
Behind the scenes before appearing The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956Elvis Presley received a polio vaccine from New York City officials, as shown in a Summer 2020 report at Humanities, the magazine of the National Endowment for Humanities.
Elvis was immunized in front of the press and Ed Sullivan himself. At that time, polio was infecting about 60,000 children in the United States annually.
“Despite the disabling effects of the virus and the promising results of vaccination, many Americans were not vaccinated. In fact, when Presley appeared on the Sullivan program, immunization levels among American teens were as poor as 0.6 percent,” according to a January 2021 piece in Scientific American.
The campaign was successful and changed some suspicious opinions.
Within 6 months of Elvis’ vaccination, immunization rates among young Americans had risen to 80%. The achievement is attributed to Elvis’ social influence, how he changed the social norm, and his willingness to set an example.
We probably remember the era of smallpox for many things, including the first vaccine developed against a widespread viral disease and because it was the first infection that humanity was able to eradicate. The last case of smallpox was diagnosed worldwide in 1977, and by 1980, the World Health Organization had recognized the world free of smallpox for the first time in centuries.
How will the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination controversies end?
“Another interesting point is that vaccination refusal reflects the perceived degree of risk versus benefit,” says Esparza, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “After two years into the pandemic, many people have made up their mind about their risk of dying from COVID-19 and are willing to take the risk.”
“While we wait for this difficult time to pass, we can at least take comfort from the fact that people all over the world dealt with these same limitations a century ago. And while they were certainly difficult for them, they did not last forever,” says Mandel, the researcher. The main at MyHeritage.” Things are back to normal after some time. A new kind of normal. And they didn’t have the technology and advanced medicine that we have today.”