By Stanley Williamson

Stanley Williamson’s meticulously researched background of the British government’s smallpox vaccination application starts off with Edward Jenner’s improvement of the vaccine on the finish of the eighteenth century, charts the mind-blowing velocity at which it grew to become obligatory for kids, and files the a long time of resistance that led to its repeal in 1946. alongside the best way Williamson examines the social, political, and moral motivations of either factions. the ability to make clinical offerings, together with these relating to vaccination, is still a hotly contested factor at the present time, making The Vaccination Controversy a well timed contribution to our wisdom of scientific heritage.

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Additional info for The Vaccination Controversy: The Rise, Reign and Fall of Compulsory Vaccination for Smallpox

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11 A revealing comment on the contemporary situation was made by Haygarth in 1782 following the failure of a scheme launched in Chester with the aim of eradicating smallpox from the city: In Chester and I believe in most of the large towns of England the casual small-pox is almost constantly present. All the children of the middle and higher ranks of our citizens are inoculated in early infancy. The populace, very generally regarding the distemper as inevitable, neither fear nor shun it, but much more frequently by voluntary or intentional intercourse endeavour to catch the casual infection […] It is with concern we remark that in one part of the town […] the inhabitants, disregarding an inspector’s exhortations, have purposely propagated the distemper, carrying the poison and even the patients, from one house to another without reserve.

4 The hostility of the doctors, their unwillingness to see her daughter’s inoculation succeed, was so great, Lady Mary maintained, that ‘she never cared to leave the child alone with them one second lest it should in some way suffer from their interference’. This suggests something approaching paranoia, and need not be taken too seriously. Lady Mary’s lifelong contempt for ‘the faculty’ is well documented and may well have communicated itself to her descendants. * * * Looking back from the end of the century on the events surrounding the introduction of inoculation, Woodville summarized the activities of the opposing parties and laid on both sides blame for its failure to produce ‘the distinct or favourable kind of small-pox’.

The destruction did not proceed in an unbroken sequence: during periods of perhaps a decade or so at a time, as for example between 1698 and 1710, the virus was largely quiescent. There were many parts of the Vaccination controversy text:Vaccination controversy 24 16/11/07 09:16 Page 24 The Vaccination Controversy kingdom in which smallpox may have been feared but was scarcely known. If there were once what might, following Gregory’s example, be termed a ‘law of universal horror’ it steadily lost much of its relevance as time went by, for reasons having less to do with medical advances than with quirks of human nature, which emerge from the testimony of contemporary observers during the later years of the century.

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