Category: History of Vaccines

Who Was John Birch?

It is well known that the anti-vaccination movement is as old as the history of vaccines itself.

John Birch (B) and the other anti-vaccine heroes of the day on their way to fight the vaccination monster.
John Birch (B) and the other anti-vaccine heroes of the day on their way to fight the vaccination monster.

Don’t believe me?

Soon after Edward Jenner had developed his vaccine, in addition to simply convincing people that he had come up with a method of preventing small pox that was better than inoculation, he had to overcome those who were dead set against the idea of vaccination.

“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?

And are not these names Moseley, Rowley, Birch, Squirrel, Lipscomb?”

The Vaccination Monster

Among them was John Birch.

Arthur Allen, in his book, Vaccine, calls John Birch one of “Jenner’s earliest foes.”

Who Was John Birch?

John Birch believed that he had serious reasons to object to Jenner's smallpox vaccine.
John Birch believed that he had serious reasons to object to Jenner’s smallpox vaccine.

John Birch worked among the medical households of King George III’s children.

Specifically, he was the “Surgeon extraordinary to the Prince of Wales” at Spring-gardens. This is in contrast to the “Physicians in ordinary” that were on the regular staff of the British Royal Household and were in regular attendance.

And he believed that he had such “serious reasons” to object to Jenner’s smallpox vaccine that he wrote a report about it in 1804, which secured his place in anti-vaccine history.

Why was he against Jenner’s small pox vaccine?

His main argument was that “Inoculation, so perfectly understood, and so successfully managed as it was, ought not be abandoned for a mere Experiment…”

He left out the part that he made a lot of money inoculating patients against small pox. He also treated small pox patients – with electric current.

The only true statement here was that his arguments were fallacious.
The only true statement here was that his arguments were fallacious.

Not surprisingly, Birch also used many of the same arguments that we hear today:

  • vaccines are dangerous (they can have risks, but are very safe)
  • vaccines cause a host of vaccine-induced diseases (they don’t)
  • vaccines sometimes don’t work (yes, they don’t work 100% of the time, but they do work very well)

He also leaves out the part about small pox inoculation being a lot riskier than vaccination, although either was certainly better than being at risk for a natural small pox infection. Actually, he doesn’t leave that out. Birch goes out of his way to claim that inoculation is a safer practice!

Why should folks believe him?

Because he says that he was right to stick with a treatment that others had already given up on – “here I was unwilling to give up Experience for Experiment, wanting nothing more safe or certain than Mercury…”

“In all investments, and in all enquiries, Trust must ultimately prevail.”

John Birch 1804

Fortunately, the truth prevailed.

Russia became the first country to ban inoculation or variolation, transitioning in favor of vaccination with Jenner’s small pox vaccine, in 1805. This is around the same time as Birch published his anti-vaccine pamphlet. Other countries followed their lead.

Birch was wrong about mercury and he was wrong about the small pox vaccine.

The John Birch Society

Although some of the member of the John Birch Society are associated with some anti-vaccine ideas and conspiracy theories, they have nothing to do with Jenner’s John Birch.

The John Birch Society was founded by Robert Welch and named after John Morrison Birch, a missionary who is said to have been the first victim of the Cold War.

What to Know About John Birch

John Birch was one of the first anti-vaccinationists and fought against Edward Jenner’s new small pox vaccine.

More About John Birch

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Who is Joseph Meister

Most people know the big names in the history of vaccines.

They know that Edward Jenner developed the first smallpox vaccine (1798) and that both Jonas Salk (1955) and Albert Sabin (1960s) developed polio vaccines.

Many other important names are forgotten though.

Ever heard of James Phipps? He was the 8-year-old boy who was the first to become inoculated with cowpox by Jenner to see if it would protect him from smallpox.

Who is Joseph Meister

Edward Jenner didn’t go out of his way to experiment on Joseph Meister, but he has a similar story.

A plaque honors Joseph Meister and Louis Pasteur in the Alsace region of France.
A plaque honors Joseph Meister and Louis Pasteur in the Alsace region of France.

In 1885, Louis Pasteur had been working on an attenuated (weakened) rabies vaccine in his lab in Paris, but had still not tested it on any human patients yet.

One hot July morning in 1885, feverish little Joseph Meister was dragged by his frantic mother through the streets of Paris in search of an unknown scientist who, according to rumors, could prevent rabies. For nine-year-old Joseph had been bitten in 14 places by a huge, mad dog and in a desperate attempt to cheat death, his mother had fled from their home town in Alsace to Paris. Early in the afternoon Mme Meister met a young physician in a hospital. “You mean Pasteur,” he said. “I’ll take you there.”

Time magazine 1939

Supervised by two doctors, Dr. Alfred Vulpian and Dr. Jacques-Joseph Grancher, Joseph Meister received the first of 14 doses of Pasteur’s rabies vaccine on July 6, 1885, two days after he was bitten.

Joseph Meister survived and became the first person to be successfully vaccinated against rabies.

“As the death of this child appeared inevitable, I decided, not without deep and severe unease, as one can well imagine, to try on Joseph Meister the procedure which had consistently worked in dogs.”

Louis Pasteur

So at about the same time as anti-vaccine folks were marching in Leicester, Joseph Meister’s mother traveled over 400km to see a doctor she didn’t know, to get her son an experimental vaccine that had never even been used on a person before.

News of the Newark kids going to Paris to get Pasteur's rabies vaccine made the front page of the New York Times.
News of the Newark kids going to Paris to get Pasteur’s rabies vaccine made it into the New York Times.

Her son was lucky that she did.

It saved his life.

A few months later, a teenager named Jean-Baptiste Jupille was bitten by a rabid dog as he saved six other children that were being attacked. He became the second person to receive Pasteur’s rabies vaccine and he too lived.

Soon, Pasteur was a hero and many people were seeking his rabies vaccine from all over the world.

In December 1885, six boys from Newark, New Jersey were bitten by a rabid dog and there were calls to send them to Paris to be treated by Pasteur. Donations were collected and four of the boys ended up going on the steamship Canada to Paris.

While that trip to Paris generated some controversy, as some later doubted that the dog had rabies, there is no doubt that Pasteur’s rabies vaccine saved a lot of lives.

Few people survived having rabies in the pre-vaccine era.
Few people survived having rabies in the pre-vaccine era.

Why were folks in Newark, and apparently everywhere else, so afraid of rabies?

It had only been a few months earlier, about the time that Joseph Meister was being successfully vaccinated in Paris, that newspapers were reporting about “the terrible death” of a 5-year-old in Newark “after suffering the most intense agony.”

He had rabies.

Even if news of that case wasn’t fresh on their minds, it is easy to see that rabies wasn’t something you survived.

It should come as no surprise that there were soon rabies treatment clinics in major cities all over the world using Pasteur’s vaccine.

What to Know About Joseph Meister

At about the same time as anti-vaccine folks were marching in Leicester, Joseph Meister’s mother traveled over 400km to see a doctor she didn’t know, to get her son an experimental vaccine that had never been used on a person before – to save him from rabies.

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Immunization Posters and Slogans

Getting your kids vaccinated and protected is a good idea.

Vaccines are safe, necessary, and they work.

Why do we need posters and slogans to help educate people about their benefits?

A billboard in Minnesota educates parents about the benefits of the chicken pox vaccine.
A billboard in Minnesota educates parents about a benefit of  vaccines – protecting those who rely on herd immunity.

Maybe because as long as there have been vaccines, there have been anti-vaccine slogans scaring parents away from them.

Immunization posters are also a good way to raise awareness of new vaccines and new  recommendations for getting vaccinated.

Educating Parents About Vaccines

This slogan, during a whooping cough epidemic, reminded parents to get their kids vaccinated now.
This slogan, during a whooping cough epidemic, reminded parents to get their kids vaccinated now.

In the early 1980s, vaccine preventable diseases had come roaring back as folks in England and other countries got scared to vaccinate and protect their kids with the DTP vaccine.

It is reported that “public confidence in the pertussis vaccine collapsed in the early 1970s as a result of widely publicised concern about its safety and campaigns for compensation for children damaged by the vaccine.”

It got so bad that as vaccination rates fell to less than 30% in 1978, there were at least 154 deaths and 17 cases of brain damage in the UK because of pertussis infections, even though the concerns about the pertussis vaccine were widely unfounded.

“While You Make Up Your Mind About Whooping Cough Vaccination, Thousands Of Children Are Holding Their Breath” was an effective poster at this time. It highlighted the fact that you could sometimes wait too long to get your kids vaccinated, as pertussis cases and deaths grew during the outbreaks.

Vaccination rates eventually went up again, as parents made up their mind to vaccinate and protect their kids.

Immunization Posters and Slogans

Other immunization slogans and posters that have been used, including many historical posters, include:

Is your child vaccinated against smallpox? Diphtheria strikes unprotected children. Fight Polio Poster
Immunization Saves Lives Diphtheria is Deadly Be Well - get your polio vaccine
Let your child be a rubella hero Polio Vaccine - don't wait until it's too late. Stop Rubella
Whooping Cough is not a bird... Keep Measles a Memory poster. Be Wise - Immunize Your Child
MMR is a cheap shot that can millions. Parents of Earth, are your children fully immunized? MMR Shot - three way protection.
Are your kids fully immunized? Can you prove it?
Before it's too late. Vaccinate. Whooping cough is back! Which vaccines do kids need? All of Them. And on Time!
Shots might hurt for a moment, but they can protect for a lifetime.
Hepatitis B can be prevented. Stop measles with just one shot, well two... different-folks-posters
Dr. Seuss said Don't Wait: Vaccinate! Vaccines give all kids a chance A child's health is as precious as a work of art: immunize your child today
 HPV vaccines prevent cancer Know. Check. Protect. World Immunization Week 2014 She got her flu shot, not the flu.
Think Measles Don't Wait. Vaccinate. Psy helping get the word out that we are close to ending polio.
Jull got the Mumps. Meningitis B vaccination poster during an outbreak at Princeton. Mumps is not just for kids anymore

Although you hopefully already know all about all of the vaccines that your kids need, if you see a new immunization poster or slogan, ask your pediatrician for more information.

​Get Educated. Get Vaccinated.

What To Know About Immunization Posters

Although immunization posters won’t ever replace the information you get from your pediatrician, they can help you get educated and raise awareness about new vaccines and new recommendations.

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Anti-Vaccine Movement Timeline and History

When did the anti-vaccine movement start?

After 1883, Leicester became a a stronghold for the anti-vaccination movement. Outbreaks of smallpox soon followed, as is seen in this New York Times report from 1884.
After 1883, Leicester became a a stronghold for the anti-vaccination movement. Outbreaks of smallpox soon followed, as is seen in this New York Times report from 1884.

Some people will be surprised to learn that it didn’t start with Bob Sears, or Jenny McCarthy, or even with Andy Wakefield.

The anti-vaccine movement started even before we started giving vaccines.

“By the 1930s… 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.”

Martin Kaufman The American Anti-Vaccinations and Their Arguments

But while anti-vaccinationists might have “slowly faded from view” in the 1930’s, they came back…

And that’s why we often associate the modern anti-vaccine movement with Bob Sears, and Jenny McCarthy, and even with Andy Wakefield. But who inspired them? The modern anti-vaccine movement took root with a discredited bit of research that was published by a doctor in London, but it wasn’t by Wakefield.

Anti-Vaccine Movement Timeline

Again, the anti-vaccine movement predates modern vaccines, but not surprisingly, they have always used the same arguments:

  • The Rev. Cotton Mather’s house is bombed after he started a smallpox variolation program in Boston in 1721

“Every year, thousands undergo this operation, and the French Ambassador says pleasantly, that they take the small-pox here by way of diversion, as they take the waters in other countries. There is no example of any one that has died in it, and you may believe I am well satisfied of the safety of this experiment, since I intend to try it on my dear little son. I am patriot enough to take the pains to bring this useful invention into fashion in England…”

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu On Small Pox in Turkey (1717)

  • Dr. Benjamin Mosely, who had a very busy practice inoculating people against smallpox, becomes “the first antivaccinist,” writing against Jenner’s new smallpox vaccine in 1798, warning about “cow mania” and “to guard parents against suffering their children becoming victims  to experiment.”
  • The satirical print, Admirable effet de la Vaccine, appears in France in 1801, depicting horns sprouting from the forehead of a man who was just vaccinated against smallpox.
  • Also in France, Dr. Jean Vernier and Dr. Joseph Vaume each publish pamphlets critical of Jenner’s vaccine.
  • In 1802, another satirical print appears in England, The Cow-Pock-or-the Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation!, depicting people turning into cows after being vaccinated
  • The Anti-Vaccination League is created in England in response to the passage of the Vaccination Act of 1853, which made getting the smallpox vaccine compulsory
  • Dr. C. C. Schieferdecker, writes about the Evils of Vaccination in 1856 in which he set out to “prove vaccination to be nonsense before reason – a miserable illusion, in a scientific point of view, and, in regard to history, the greatest crime that has been committed in this last century.”
  • the Anti-Cumpulsory Vaccination League is founded after the passage of the Vaccination Act of 1867
  • The New York Times announced the formation of the American Anti-Vaccination Society in 1885.
    The New York Times announced the formation of the American Anti-Vaccination Society in 1885.

    Lewis Carroll argues with folks pushing anti-vaccine information about the smallpox vaccine in 1877

  • William Tebb, a British anti-vaccinationist, visits the United States in 1879 and helps start the Anti-Vaccination Society of America.
  • Alfred Russel Wallace is recruited to the antivaccination movement after reading Papers on Vaccination
  • Leicester Demonstration March of 1885 – around the time that Leicester had become “a stronghold of anti-vaccination.”
  • In 1882, Henry Bergh, founder of the ASPCA and a vocal member of the anti-vivisectionist movement, which were often anti-vaccine, writes an article against vaccines. He later helped found the American Anti-Vaccination Society.
  • Lora Little speaks out about vaccines and writes Crimes of the Cowpox Ring in the late 19th century
  • George Winterburn, like many homeopaths of the time (1886), becomes an outspoken critic of vaccines, writing the book The Value of Vaccination, in which he tries to proves “how little of scientific research it was adopted, and how much the whim of a few fashionable folk shaped its destiny.”
  • In 1890, Dr. AN Bell debates Dr. Robert A. Gunn, who had “long held that vaccination would in time be relegated to the long list of medical fallacies, and such works as I mention seem to indicate that it will not be long before that time comes,” in a series of articles over several months, “The Truth About Vaccination,” in their respective medical journals, The Sanitarian and Medical Tribune.
  • Dr. Immanuel Pfeiffer didn't think smallpox was contagious. He was wrong...
    Dr. Immanuel Pfeiffer didn’t think smallpox was contagious. He was wrong…

    William Tebb publishes the book Vaccination and Leprosy in 1893, in which he pushes the idea that an increase in leprosy is caused by smallpox vaccinations. A review in the New York Times wonders “Can it be possible that for all the years of the present century we have been believing in the potency of vaccination and been stupid enough to work in the wrong direction? Such a conclusion forms the basis of Mr Tebb’s arguments.”

  • In 1902, Dr. Immanuel Pfeiffer, argues that smallpox wasn’t contagious, was allowed to visit the Gallop’s Island smallpox hospital in Boston. A few weeks later, he was found to be critically ill at his home – with smallpox.
  • Dr. Reuben Swinburne Clymer, an osteopath, in 1904, writes Vaccination Brought Home to You, which “tells what vaccine is and how it is procured from the calf; tells how some have been killed and others made to suffer untold miseries by being inoculated with pure vaccine [poison]; gives facts and figures showing the results of vaccination… All of which show that vaccination don’t prevent small-pox, but rather tends to increase it. It exposes some of the lies of the wily Medicoes.” Clymer was also an occultist, an Rosicurcian (a self-proclaimed community of mystics who study and practice the metaphysical laws governing the universe, but more commonly called a fake secret society), and wrote about alchemy.

“Here I would like to say a word or two upon one of the most terrible of all acute infections, the one of which we first learned the control through the work of Jenner. A great deal of literature has been distributed casting discredit upon the value of vaccination in the prevention of small-pox. I do not see how anyone who has gone through epidemics as I have, or who is familiar with the history of the subject, and who has any capacity left for clear judgement, can doubt its value…

I would like to issue a Mount-Carmel-like challenge to any ten unvaccinated priests of Baal. I will go into the next severe epidemic with ten selected, vaccinated persons and ten selected unvaccinated persons – I should prefer to choose the latter – three members of Parliament, three anti-vaccination doctors (if they can be found), and four anti-vaccination propagandists. And I will make this promise – neither to jeer nor jibe when they catch the disease, but to look after them as brothers, and for the four or five who are certain to die, I will try to arrange the funerals with all the pomp and ceremony of an anti-vaccination demonstration.”

Sir William Osler, MD Man’s Redemption of Man (1910)

  • The anti-vaccine American Medical Liberty League is founded in 1918 by D.W. Ensign, the owner of Ensign Remedies (which sold mail-order cures to all diseases), and works against the American Medical Association, employs Lora Little and Charles M. Higgins of the Anti-Vaccination League of America
  • Mahatma Gandhi writes A Guide to Health in 1921 and states  that “vaccination is a violation of the dictates of religion and morality”
  • Dr. John H Tilden writes the book Toxemia Explained: The True Interpretion of the Cause of Disease in 1926 and explains that “Every so-called disease is built within the mind and body by enervating habits.” In addition to pushing germ theory denialism, he is of course, anti-vaccine, calling vaccines poison.
  • Louis Siefgried, a Brooklyn chiropractor, writes The Quest Against Vaccination and Cruel Vivisection in 1926 and is soon arrested for refusing to vaccinate his daughter
  • George Barnard Shaw wrote that “vaccination is nothing short of attempted murder” in a 1944 letter to the Irish Times

“I think it can be said that this demonstrates a conscious over-anxiety to appease what I may call the vaccine-damage lobby, which may have led to decisions being biased against the vaccine.”

Justice Murray Stuart-Smith on Dr David Miller’s DPT study (1986)

  • Dr. John Wilson of London, in 1973, presents to the British Pediatric Association and later publishes an article, “Neurological complications of pertussis inoculation,” in the Archives of Disease in Childhood describing “36 children, seen in the past 11 years, who are believed to have suffered from neurological complications of pertussis inoculation.” While Wilson actually supported immunizations, like Wakefield, he later took to the media to scare parents because he had “seen too many children in whom there has been a very close association between a severe illness, with fits, unconsciousness, often focal neurological signs, and inoculation.” What followed was a drop in DPT vaccinations in many countries and vaccine lawsuits, even though his study was later found to be seriously flawed, with most having no link to the DPT vaccine.
  • Rosemary Fox, forms the Association of Parents of Vaccine Damaged Children, for which Wilson becomes an adviser. Fox, who believed that her daughter was “damaged by vaccination,” distributed questionnaires to the parents of suspected vaccine injured children, many who were seeking compensation in lawsuits, and many of which were then used in the National Childhood Encephalopathy Study by Dr Gordon Stewart and Dr David Miller.
  • Jack Ashley MP begins asking questions in Parliament about adverse events after vaccinations, soon after Wilson’s paper is published in 1974, supported by Rosemary Fox and almost 300 families from her Association of Parents of Vaccine Damaged Children.
  • Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, one of the first celebrity, anti-vaccine pediatricians, was a frequent guest on Donahue and other talk shows during the 1970s and 80s, prompting the AAP Committee on Infectious Disease to call him out in a “Red Book Update” published in Pediatrics in 1982, stating his “views are counter to scientific evidence and clearly they do not reflect Academy policy or recommendation.”
  • Dr. David Miller publishes a study in 1981 that showed a link between seizures in kids and receiving the DPT vaccine. A link that could not be confirmed in any other studies and a study that was published before all of the data had been completed. Like Wilson’s study, the Miller study quickly fell apart upon closer examination, including a finding that of seven children reportedly having vaccine damage, “three of the children had been incorrectly labeled as brain damaged when in fact they were normal both before and after vaccination.”
  • Lea Thompson‘s anti-vaccine documentary DPT: Vaccine Roulette aired in 1982 and is often credited as helping start the modern American anti-vaccine movement, but would she have been able to make her documentary without the groundwork laid out by Wilson and Miller?
  • Mirroring the work of Rosemary Fox, Barbara Loe Fisher, with Kathi Williams, soon form the group Dissatisfied Parents Together (DPT) shortly after watching Vaccine Roulette. They later changed their name to the NVIC, which was once described as the “single most powerful anti-vaccine organization in America.”
  • The press in Great Britain, when articles from daily and Sunday papers from 1982 were analyzed, were found to be “irresponsible in their attitude” towards vaccines and often depicted “rare, negative events.”

“…because so many parents refuse, either out of obstinacy or ignorance or fear, to allow their children to be immunised, we still have a hundred thousand cases of measles every year…

It really is almost a crime to allow your child to go unimmunised.”

Roald Dahl Death of Olivia (1986)

  • Lisa Bonet, of The Cosby Show, appeared on Donahue in 1990 and said that vaccines could “introduce alien microorganisms into our children’s blood and the long-term effects which could be trivial or they could be quite hazardous”
  • Barbara Loe Fisher writes A Shot in the Dark in 1991
  • Andrew Wakefield publishes his first study trying to find a virus that was causing inflammatory bowel disease in 1992, “Detection of herpesvirus DNA in the large intestine of patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease using the nested polymerase chain reaction.” He moves on to the measles virus the next year with his study, “Evidence of persistent measles virus infection in Crohn’s disease.”
  • Heather Whitestone becomes the first deaf Miss America, winning the Miss America pageant in 1994, and promptly gets media coverage for her ‘vaccine injury,’ which was really caused by a Hib infection. Not surprisingly, the true story, that her deafness wasn’t caused by a vaccine injury, didn’t get nearly as much media coverage.
  • Andrew Wakefield publishes his first Lancet article in 1994, “Perinatal measles infection and subsequent Crohn’s disease.” The next year, he gets another study published in Lancet, “Is measles vaccination a risk factor for inflammatory bowel disease?” Foreshadowing what was to happen with his later “autism” study, his research was found to be “flawed because of biases from differential loss to follow-up and case ascertainment in the vaccinated and unvaccinated cohorts.” The findings of his study also could not be replicated by others and was flagged for “epidemiological weaknesses and lack of biological plausibility.”
  • Meryl Dorey forms the Australian Vaccination Network in 1994, who’s name is later changed (on order of the NSW Government Fair Trading Agency) to the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network.

“It would be most unfortunate if the publication of this controversial work led to public anxiety over the safety of measles vaccine.”

KC Calman on Wakefield’s 1995 Measles Vaccination Study

  • Beginning from at least 1995, and over the next 10 years, 37% of all vaccine safety articles “had a negative take-home message.”
  • Katie Couric does a segment on the NBC News show Now with Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric about DPT “hot lots.”
  • David Miller writes a letter to the BMJ about a study he did, “Measles vaccination and neurological events,” and in which he concluded that “these findings provide no evidence of a risk of long-term neurological damage associated with measles vaccine.” Not surprisingly, Wakefield took issue with Miller’s study, but many will be surprised about one of  Wakefield’s problem – ” a reaction to vaccination resulting in regressive autism is likely to be a rare event, so the number of cases used for Miller and colleagues’ analysis is woefully inadequate to investigate such a reaction.”
  • At one of the first anti-vaccine conferences of the modern era, the First International Public Conference on Vaccination, in September 1997, Andrew Wakefield gives a presentation and Lea Thompson gets an award.
  • Andrew Wakefield publishes another study in the Lancet in 1998, setting off a media frenzy by stating that “Again, this was very contentious and you would not get consensus from all members of the group on this, but that is my feeling, that the, the risk of this particular syndrome developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR, rather than the single vaccines.” Although widely discredited, his paper isn’t formally retracted until 2010.
  • In 1999, ABC’s 20/20 airs a segment about the hepatitis B vaccine, “Who’s Calling the Shots?,” which has been described as “a program that deeply scared the American public.” ABC’s Nightline also does a segment on vaccine injury featuring Barbara Loe Fisher.
  • Beginning in 2000, Dan Burton begins holding Congressional hearings trying to prove that there is a link between vaccines and autism
  • Also in 2000, Andrew Wakefield appears on the 60 Minutes segment “The MMR Vaccine”
  • And that’s the year that Cindy Crawford appeared on Good Morning America with her celebrity pediatrician, Dr. Jay Gordon, after which he said “They edited the segment to make me sound like a vaccination proponent. We also have to understand the impact of a person as well-known as Cindy Crawford delaying vaccines for over six months.”
  • The CBS Evening News begins their four year run of “extremist views of vaccines and autism,” including going “after vaccine makers and the make-believe link between vaccines and autism, taking up the cause of trial attorneys on the one hand and glossing over the scientific data demonstrating no relationship on the other.” This 2004 segment by Sharyl Attkisson, on “Vaccine Links to Autism?,” featured a ‘landmark study’ by Dr. Mady Hornig about overdosing  mice with thimerosal.
  • Bill Maher appears on Larry King Live in 2005 and warns people about flu shots
  • Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. gets his “error-laced” expose “Deadly Immunity” published in Rolling Stone magazine in 2005 (it is later retracted). He also appears on the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather.
  • Jenny McCarthy appears on Oprah, Good Morning America, Larry King Live, and 20/20 in 2007 to promote her book about how she cured her non-Indigo autistic son who got the “autism shot”

“When a well-meaning parent like Jenny McCarthy blames vaccines for her child’s autism, placing the fear of God into every parent who has a baby, it’s not only irresponsible – it’s dangerous. Why? It’s simple math: vaccines are less effective when large numbers of parents opt out. And the more who opt out, the less protected ALL our children are.

Celebrity books come and go . . . but the anxiety they create lives on in pediatricians’ offices across the country. A small, but growing number of parents are even lying about their religious beliefs to avoid having their children vaccinated, thanks in part to the media hysteria created by this book.”

Ari Brown, MD on The New McCarthyism in the Wall Street Journal (2007)

  • Dr. Bob Sears publishes his Vaccine Book in 2007 which leads vaccine hesitant parents across the country to request that their pediatricians follow Sears’ non-evidence based alternative immunization schedule instead of the standard CDC schedule, leaving these kids unprotected from many vaccine preventable diseases
  • In 2008, Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey lead the Green Our Vaccines rally in Washington, D.C.
  • The pilot episode of Eli Stone aired on ABC in 2008, a show described as “anti-vaccination idiocy about autism.”
  • The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, airs a segment in 2008, “How Independent Are Vaccine Defenders?,” pushing the idea that “strong financial ties” between vaccine manufacturers and the AAP and other groups pushing the idea that “industry ties could impact the advice given to the public about all those vaccines.”
  • Jenny McCarthy in Time magazine in 2009 and appears again on Larry King Live
  • Matt Lauer interviews Andrew Wakefield on Dateline in 2009 in the hour-long episode “A Dose of Controversy”
  • Barbara Loe Fisher discussing “Forced Vaccinations” on Lou Dobbs Tonight in 2009
  • Bill Maher again warns people about flu shots in 2009 (during the H1N1 pandemic), this time on his own show Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Bill Gates gives a Ted Talk in 2010, says that “The world today has 6.8 billion people. That’s heading up to about nine billion. Now if we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care & reproductive health services, we could LOWER that by perhaps 10 or 15 percent,” and folks think he has a plan to depopulate the world using vaccines.

“The way forward is clear. Because no credible evidence during the past 13 years supports the hypothesized connection between the MMR vaccine and autism disorders, it is bereft of credible evidence and must be discarded. At the same time, autism is a public health concern that must be addressed by enhancing research funding and directing that funding toward studies of credible hypotheses of causation.

To continue pouring money into futile attempts to prove a connection to the MMR vaccine when multiple high-quality scientific studies across multiple countries and across many years have failed to show any hint of a connection, and in the face of biologic nonplausibility, is dangerous and reckless of lives, public funding, and ultimately public health.”

Gregory A. Poland, MD on Vaccine Nihilism and Postmodern Science (2011)

  • The Greater Good movie, which has been described as “pure, unadulterated anti-vaccine propaganda,” debuts at the Dallas International Film Festival in 2011
  • Rep. Michele Bachman in a 2011 interview on Fox News discussing the HPV vaccine, says that “There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result of that vaccine. There are very dangerous consequences. It’s not good enough to take, quote, ‘a mulligan’ where you want a do-over, not when you have little children’s lives at risk.”
  • Katie Couric has a segment about HPV on her show Katie in 2013 in which she “promotes dangerous fear mongering”
  • In 2014, the Dwoskin Family Foundation creates and funds the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute, which is reported to fund much of the anti-vaccination research that is done over the next few years. Previously, much of that research was funded directly through the Dwoskin Family Foundation itself.
  • Robert DeNiro appears on the TODAY Show in 2016 to discuss why his film festival pulled Andrew Wakefield’s movie about the CDC Whistleblower, VAXXED
  • Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. who has said both that he is “not anti-vaccine” and that after kids get vaccinated, “their brain is gone. This is a holocaust…,” also claimed, in 2017, that he is to lead Donald Trump’s “vaccine safety commission.”

While the names change and we now have anti-vaccine propaganda on the internet instead of hand printed pamphlets, the key messages they use to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids are surprisingly the same.

What To Know About the History of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

As you follow the anti-vaccine movement from the very beginning, it is easy to see the common threads that connect all of the players from the Victorian Age to the 21st Century. Germ theory denialism. Alternative medical providers. The media.

What else?

Fear, especially fear of vaccine-injury.

And although George Bernard Shaw once wrote that “the antivaccinist is facing very serious persecution without any prospect of personal gain,” you just have to look at all of the eBooks, eCourses, conferences,  seminars, supplements, and autism “cures” many of them push and sell to know that isn’t true.

The modern anti-vaccine movement certainly also has a wider forum these days, making them an even more vocal minority. Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. E-books.

But not much else has changed.

One can’t even really say that the names have changed. Folks in the modern anti-vaccine movement continue to bring up the work of long discredited anti-vaccinated propagandists from the past, even going so far as continuing to believe that germs don’t really cause disease, vaccines don’t really work, and that vaccines aren’t really necessary.

Tragically, we are also mostly fighting the same vaccine-preventable diseases.

More About the Anti-Vaccine Movement Timeline and History

Updated on August 9, 2017

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Vaccine Timeline and History of Vaccines

Most people are aware of the big historic dates and events related to vaccines.

For example, they might now when Edward Jenner first tested his smallpox vaccine (1798), when the first polio vaccine was licensed by Jonas Salk (1955), or that we just got a Meningococcal B vaccine (2014).

Smallpox was officially declared to have been eradicated in December 1979.
Smallpox was officially declared to have been eradicated worldwide in December 1979.

But few likely now that we have had rabies vaccines since 1885, a flu vaccine since 1945, or that the last case of wild polio in the United States was in 1979.

“It is hard to fully appreciate how vaccines have revolutionized modern medicine. The long schedule of vaccines may seem like a hassle, and rumors about harmful effects unnerve parents. But, the fact is, vaccines have helped save millions and millions of lives. Just a few generations ago, people lived under the constant threat of deadly infectious diseases, like smallpox, polio, and hepatitis.

Let’s look at the greatest infectious scourges of the past 1,000 years and how vaccines have mitigated or even eradicated the danger.”

Public Health Understanding Vaccines

From historical safety concerns, like the Cutter Incident in 1955 or the withdrawal of the first rotavirus vaccine in 1999, to improvements in vaccine safety and the control, elimination, and eradication of vaccine-preventable diseases, understanding the history of vaccines can help you get educated and understand that vaccines work and that they are safe and necessary.

Early History of Vaccination

In the early history of vaccination we had the the smallpox vaccine and the beginning of the pre-vaccine era – the first vaccines.

  • Lady Mary Wortley Montagu brings variolation to England to prevent smallpox
  • George Washington mandated that every soldier in the Continental Army had to be inoculated against smallpox
  • Edward Jenner conducts experiments in 1796 that led to the creation of the first smallpox vaccine a few years later and replaces variolation as a preventative for smallpox
  • *Dr. Luigi Sacco becomes the Jenner of Italy
  • James Madison, one of the Founding Fathers, signed the Vaccine Act of 1813 – An Act to encourage Vaccination.
  • a vaccine for rabies is developed by Louis Pasteur in 1885
  • vaccines for cholera and typhoid were developed in 1896 and a plague vaccine in 1887
  • the first diphtheria vaccine is developed in about 1913 through the work of Emil Adolf Behring, William Hallock Park, and others
  • the first whole-cell pertussis vaccines is developed in 1914, although it will take several decades before they are more widely used
  • a tetanus vaccine is developed in 1927
  • 12 children die when a multi-use bottle of diphtheria vaccine that didn’t contain a preservative became contaminated with bacteria in the Queensland Disaster in 1928
  • Max Theiler develops the first yellow fever vaccine in 1936
  • the AAP formally approves the use of a pertussis vaccine created by Pearl Kendrick and Grace Eldering in 1943
  • the first flu vaccine is licensed for use in the US in 1945

End of the Pre-Vaccine Era

In the mid-20th century, we started to get vaccines to control diseases that many of us have never seen, like polio, measles, and rubella.

  • the individual diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccines become combined in a single DTP vaccine in 1948
  • the last smallpox outbreak in the United States kills one person, Lillian Barber, in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas in 1949
  • the Salk inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) is introduced in 1955
  • President Dwight D Eisenhower signed the Polio Vaccination Assistance Act in 1955, which gave $30 million in federal grants to states to cover the costs of planning and conducting polio vaccination programs, including purchasing polio vaccine
  • about 200 children develop polio in 1955 from contaminated polio vaccines in what becomes known as the Cutter Incident
  • the live, oral Sabin polio vaccine (OPV) replaces the Salk polio vaccine in 1962
  • President John F Kennedy signed the Vaccination Assistance Act in 1962 (Section 317 of the Public Health Service Act), which started as a three year program to help get kids vaccinated against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, but it has been continuously reauthorized ever since
  • the first live measles vaccine was licensed in 1963 but was replaced with a further attenuated measles virus that caused fewer side effects in 1968
  • President Lyndon B Johnson established a legacy of US leadership in global immunization by funding the CDC Smallpox Eradication program in 1965
  • the MMR vaccine becomes available in 1971, combined the vaccines for measles, mumps (licensed in 1967), and rubella (1969), and was routinely given when toddlers were about 15 months old
  • routine vaccination with smallpox vaccines end in the US in 1972

The Vaccination Era

The end of the 20th century brought more vaccines and protection against even more now vaccine preventable diseases.

  • Pneumovax, the first pneumococcal vaccine that protects kids and adults from certain types of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria is approved in 1971 and is given to high-risk kids
  • President Jimmy Carter’s  National Childhood Immunization Initiative in 1977 reached its goal of immunizing 90% of children
  • the Thirty-Third World Health Assembly declares that smallpox is eradicated in 1979
  • Menomune, the first meningococcal vaccine is licensed in 1981 and is recommended for high-risk kids until it is later replaced by Menactra
  • a plasma-derived hepatitis B vaccine is licensed in 1981
  • Vaccine Roulette, a controversial news segment, airs in 1982 and attempts to associate the DPT vaccine with permanent brain damage, downplays the risks of pertussis disease and helps start much of the modern American anti-vaccine movement
  • a Haemophilus b capsular polysaccharide vaccine is licensed in 1985, but unfortunately does not provide good protection in kids younger than 18 to 24 months, who are most at risk for Haemophilus influenzae Type b disease
  • a recombinant hepatitis B vaccine (Recombivax HB) is approved in 1986 but is only recommended to be used in those at high risk for infection
  • another hepatitis B vaccine, Engerix-B, is approved in 1989
  • the first Haemophilus b conjugate vaccine (PRP-D) is approved in 1988 to provide protection against Haemophilus influenzae type b disease in all kids at least 18 months old, but in 1990, they are replaced with two improved Hib conjugate vaccines (PRP-HbOC and PRP-OMP) that can be given to infants as young as two months old
  • a booster dose of MMR is first recommended in 1989, but only for kids who live in counties that have at least 5 cases of measles. The routine 2 dose MMR schedule wasn’t put into use for all kids until 1994.
  • the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) is established in 1990
  • the hepatitis B and Hib vaccines are recommended for all infants in 1991
  • after year’s of neglect under President Reagan, President George HW Bush’s immunization action plan in 1991 once again raised immunization rates following three years of measles outbreaks
  • the DTaP vaccine, which is supposed to have fewer side effects than DTP is licensed, and by 1997 replaces DTP for all required doses, although DTP is never actually shown to have caused seizures or brain damage, as was once claimed in Vaccine Roulette
  • President Bill Clinton’s Childhood Immunization Initiative in 1993 includes signing the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Act, providing free vaccines to many children
  • the WHO declares that polio has been eliminated from the Western Hemisphere in 1994
  • a vaccine to protect kids against chicken pox (Varivax) is licensed in 1995
  • VAQTA, the first hepatitis A vaccine is approved by the FDA in 1996 for kids who are at least two years old, but is mainly given to kids at high risk to get hepatitis A
  • the Salk inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) is once again recommended for kids and replaces the oral polio vaccine (OPV) in 1996 because of a small risk of vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis (VAPP), beginning with a sequential IPV-OPV vaccine schedule and then going to an all IPV schedule in 2000
  • RotaShield, the first rotavirus vaccine is licensed in 1998 but is soon withdrawn from the market in 1999 after it is associated with an increased risk of intussusception, a form of bowel obstruction
  • LYMErix, a Lyme disease vaccine, is licensed in 1998
  • Dr. Andrew Wakefield publishes a report in the journal Lancet and attempts to link the MMR vaccine to autism
  • thimerosal is removed from the vast majority of vaccines in the childhood immunization schedule in 1999 and 2000
  • endemic measles is declared eliminated in the United States in 2000
  • Prevnar, a newer pneumococcal vaccine is licensed in 2000 and is added to the immunization schedule the next year
  • LYMErix goes off the market because of insufficient sales in 2002
  • Flumist, a live, intranasal flu vaccine, is approved in 2004
  • endemic rubella is declared eliminated in the United States in 2004
  • a flu shot for all healthy children between 6 and 23 months became a formal recommendation for the 2004-05 flu season.
  • beginning in the 2004-05 flu season, a flu shot is recommended for women who will be pregnant during flu season, in any trimester, which is different than previous recommendations for a flu vaccine if a women was going to be beyond the first trimester of pregnancy during flu season. Unfortunately, even though they are in a high-risk category, only about only 13% of pregnant women received a flu vaccine in 2003.
  • Havrix, another hepatitis A vaccine, is approved in 2005 and the age indication for both hepatitis A vaccines is lowered to 12 months.
  • Menactra, a vaccine to protect against certain types of meningococcal disease is licensed in 2005 and is added to the immunization schedule in 2006, being recommended for all at 11 to 12 years of age or when they enter high school
  • the Tdap vaccine (Boostrix or Adacel) is recommended for teens and adults to protect them from pertussis in 2006 and replaces the previous Td vaccine that only worked against tetanus and diphtheria
  • RotaTeq, another rotavirus vaccine, is licensed in 2006, and is added to the immunization schedule in 2007
  • the hepatitis A vaccine is added to the routine childhood immunization schedule in 2006
  • Gardasil, the first HPV vaccine, is approved in 2006
  • a shingles vaccine, Zostavax, is approved for adults in 2006
  • a 2nd booster dose of the chicken pox vaccine is added to the immunization schedule in 2007 to help prevent breakthrough infections

The Post Vaccination Era

Why call it the post-vaccination era?

It has been some time since a vaccine for a new disease has been added to the routine vaccination schedule, but we are also starting to see more and more outbreaks of old diseases, especially pertussis, mumps, and measles.

  • another rotavirus vaccine, RotaRix, is approved in 2008
  • another HPV vaccine, Cervarix, is approved in 2009
  • another meningococcal vaccine, Menveo, is approved in 2010
  • a newer version of Prevnar, which can provide coverage against 13 strains of the pneumococcal bacteria, is approved and replaces the older version (Prevnar 7) in 2010
  • Fluzone Intradermal and Fluzone High-Dose are two new flu vaccine options that became available in 2011
  • a combination vaccine that protects against both Haemophilus influenzae type b and Neisseria meningitidis serogroups C and Y was approved by the FDA in 2013. MenHibrix is recommended for infants at high risk for meningococcal disease.
  • Quadrivalent flu vaccines, which protect against four strains of flu, become available for the 2013-14 flu season
  • Trumenba, the first vaccine to protect against serogroup B Meningococcal disease is approved by the FDA (October 2014). Previously, Bexsero, a MenB vaccine that is approved in some other countries, was given to some college students during outbreaks under the FDA’s expanded access program for investigational products. Both are now recommended by the ACIP for those at increased risk for meningococcal serogroup B infections.
  • Gardasil 9 is approved by the FDA (December 2014) to provide protection against five additional types of HPV.
  • Cervarix is discontinued in the US in 2016 because of poor sales
  • Vaxchora is approved to in 2016 for adults traveling to cholera-affected areas

More Information About Vaccine Timelines

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US Presidents and Vaccines

You would think that getting kids vaccinated and protected against vaccine-preventable diseases would be a non-partisan issue, but it unfortunately isn’t always the case.

donald-trump

Even before Donald Trump brought up false claims that vaccines cause autism, we have seen what can happen when funding for vaccines dropped. Federal support for vaccines dropped while Reagan was in office and we quickly saw outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, including many deaths.

Fortunately, most American Presidents have strongly supported vaccines.

There is no longer any reason why American children should suffer from polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, or tetanus. … I am asking the American people to join in a nationwide vaccination program to stamp out these four diseases.

JFK in 1962

  • George Washington – had smallpox and later mandated that every soldier in the Continental Army had to be inoculated against smallpox
  • John Adams – was innoculated against smallpox (before Jenner‘s vaccine was available), as were his wife and children
  • Thomas Jefferson – conducted his own smallpox vaccine trials
  • James Madison – signed the Vaccine Act of 1813 – An Act to encourage Vaccination.
  • James K Polk – died of cholera, a now vaccine-preventable disease, three months after his term ended
  • Zachary Taylor – died of cholera while still in office
  • Abraham Lincoln – developed smallpox while he was in office
  • Franklin D Roosevelt – had polio and founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which was later renamed the March of Dimes, and helped fund Jonas Salk‘s research on the first polio vaccine
  • Harry S Truman – had diphtheria as a child, which may have left him with vision problems, and was vaccinated against smallpox
  • Dwight D Eisenhower – signed the Polio Vaccination Assistance Act in 1955, which gave $30 million in federal grants to states to cover the costs of planning and conducting polio vaccination programs, including purchasing polio vaccine
  • John F Kennedy – signed the Vaccination Assistance Act in 1962 (Section 317 of the Public Health Service Act), which started as a three year program to help get kids vaccinated against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, but it has been continuously reauthorized ever since
  • Lyndon B Johnson – established a legacy of US leadership in global immunization by funding the CDC Smallpox Eradication program in 1965 (smallpox wasn’t eradicated until 1980)
  • Richard Nixon – observed that scientists who helped develop the polio vaccine with Jonas Salk “deserve far greater respect and support by the people whom they serve than they now receive.”
  • Gerald Ford – instituted a swine flu vaccination program for an outbreak that never appeared
  • Jimmy Carter – his National Childhood Immunization Initiative in 1977 reached its goal of immunizing 90% of children
  • Ronald Reagan – signed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA) of 1986, which created VAERS and the NVICP, while federal support for vaccine programs reached a low point in his years in office, as rates of children living in poverty and without health insurance increased
  • George HW Bush – his immunization action plan in 1991 once again raised immunization rates following three years of measles outbreaks
  • Bill Clinton – his Childhood Immunization Initiative in 1993 which included signing the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Act, provided free vaccines to many children
  • George W Bush – announced a major smallpox vaccination program in 2002, but very few healthcare workers actually volunteered to get vaccinated
  • Barack Obama – declared the 2009 H1N1 swine flu outbreak a national emergency, Obamacare requires health insurance plans to pay for vaccines without co-pays, made the Ebola outbreak a national security priority, and helped keep funding for Zika vaccine research going

What can we expect our next President to do about vaccines and vaccination rates?

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Founding Fathers on Vaccines

The Founding Fathers presenting a draft of the Declaration of Independence.
The Founding Fathers presenting a draft of the Declaration of Independence. By John Trumbull – US Capitol

What did the Founding Fathers think about vaccines?

While some folks like to claim that the Founding Fathers would have been against vaccines, most experts think that claim is nonsense.

What we know is that the seven key Founding Fathers, which include:

  • John Adams – was innoculated against smallpox (before Jenner‘s vaccine was available), as were his wife and children
  • Benjamin Franklin – was vaccinated and regretted not vaccinating his own son, who died of smallpox
  • Alexander Hamilton – supported George Washington’s plan to inoculate the Continental Army against smallpox
  • John Jay – having a brother and sister that were both blinded by natural smallpox infections, you would expect that he would be in favor of vaccinations and he did indeed inoculate his own children Maria, Nancy and Sally Jay against smallpox
  • Thomas Jefferson – conducted his own smallpox vaccine trials
  • James Madison – signed the Vaccine Act of 1813 – An Act to encourage Vaccination.
  • George Washington – had smallpox and later mandated that every soldier in the Continental Army had to be inoculated against smallpox

Without speculating on what they would have thought of today’s immunization schedules and anti-vaccine movements, it is safe to say that they supported the use of the vaccines that were available to them at the time to protect themselves and their families.

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