Mahatma Gandhi was a great leader and philosopher.
So what does Gandhi know about vaccines?
If you read his A Guide To Health, which he wrote in 1921, apparently he thinks he knows a lot.
In addition to the few quotes that anti-vax folks like to cherry pick out of the book, namely where Gandhi says that “vaccination is a barbarous practice, and it is one of the most fatal of all the delusions current in our time…,” and that “conscientious objectors to vaccination should, of course, have the courage to face all penalties or persecutions to which they may be subjected by law, and stand alone, if need be, against the whole world, in defence of their conviction,” he also says that:
The world is compounded of the five elements,—earth, water, air, fire, and ether. So too is our body. It is a sort of miniature world. Hence the body stands in need of all the elements in due proportion,—pure earth, pure water, pure fire or sunlight, pure air, and open space. When any one of these falls short of its due proportion, illness is caused in the body.
It is not enough to observe the laws of health as regards air, water and food. The man should altogether cease to sleep in privacy with his wife. Little reflection is needed to show that the only possible motive for privacy between man and wife is the desire for sexual enjoyment. They should sleep apart at night, and be incessantly engaged in good works during the day. They should read such books as fill them with noble thoughts and meditate over the lives of great men, and live in the constant realisation of the fact that sensual enjoyment is the root of all disease. Whenever they feel a prompting for enjoyment, they should bathe in cold water, so that the heat of passion may be cooled down, and be refined into the energy of virtuous activity. This is a hard thing to do, but we have been born into this world that we might wrestle with difficulties and temptations, and conquer them; and he who has not the will to do it can never enjoy the supreme blessing of true health.
…there is absolutely no need to be afraid of small-pox.
I cannot also help feeling that vaccination is a violation of the dictates of religion and morality.
The vaccine is a filthy substance, and it is foolish to expect that one kind of filth can be removed by another.
The fact of the matter is that it is only the self-interest of doctors that stands in the way of the abolition of this inhuman practice, for the fear of losing the large incomes that they at present derive from this source blinds them to the countless evils which it brings.
Those who object to vaccination should observe all the more strictly the laws of health already explained; for the strict observance of these laws ensures in the system those vital forces which counteract all disease germs, and is, therefore, the best protection against small-pox as well as other diseases. If, while objecting to the introduction of the poisonous vaccine into the system, they surrendered themselves to the still more fatal poison of sensuality, they would undoubtedly forfeit their right to ask the world to accept their views on the matter.
These echo many anti-vaccine talking points still used today, from minimizing the seriousness of vaccine-preventable diseases and saying vaccines are dangerous and immoral, to hinting at Big-Pharma conflicts of interests and pushing alternative therapies.
And he is later, during a smallpox epidemic in which many children died, reported to have said:
I can’t sleep. These kiddies are fading away like little buds. I feel the weight of their deaths on my shoulders. I prevailed upon their parents not to get them vaccinated. Now the children are passing away. It may be, I am afraid, the result of my ignorance and obstinacy; and so I feel very unhappy.
It seems that he may have had second thoughts about imposing his opinions against vaccines on others.
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