Letter to the Editor

There is nothing new under the Sun….

Archives of Disease in Childhood,

160 years ago

Anti-Vaccination League

Vaccination against smallpox seemed to be so reliable a prophylactic that in Britain in 1853 it was made statutory for all new born children.


“…………..By about 7.30 a goodly number of anti- vaccinators were present, and an escort was formed, preceded by a banner, to accompany a young mother and two men, all of whom had resolved to give themselves up to the police and undergo imprisonment in preference to having their children vaccinated. The utmost sympathy was expressed for the poor woman, who bore up bravely, and although seeming to feel her position expressed her determination to go to prison again and again rather than give her child over to the “tender mercies” of a public vaccinator.

The three were attended by a numerous crowd and in Gallow tree gate three hearty cheers were given for them, which were renewed with increased vigour as they entered the doors of the police cells.

A further penalty, which fell most harshly on those least able to bear it, was to have the fine for non-compliance and the cost of the prosecution forcibly extracted from them by the seizure and sale of their furniture.

‘A man named Arthur Ward had two children injured through vaccination and refused to submit another one to the operation. A fine was imposed and on 24th November two police officers called for the penalty, or in default to ticket the goods.

The husband was out at the market, and the poor woman had no money to pay. The goods downstairs were considered insufficient to cover the amount, and the officers demanded to go upstairs. The woman refused to allow this, and an altercation took place, and harsh language was used by the officers, who threatened to take her husband to prison, terrifying Mrs Ward.

At that time she was pregnant, and the shock to the system, and the fright, were of such a character that symptoms ensued which ultimately led to a premature confinement, and on 26th December she gave birth to a still-born child.

She never recovered and last week she expired. The doctor who had attended Mrs Ward said that although he believed in vaccination he did not think it was the duty of any professional man to carry out the laws in the outrageous and brutal manner in which they were enforced.……………”


from Kev Crisscross