Of course The Simpsons, although they are often ahead of their time on things, wasn’t the first cartoon to send a message about vaccines.
Remember the children being fed to the Vaccination Monster?, with John Birch and other anti-vaccination heroes of the day marching to slay it?
This etching of Charles Williams was made in 1802 as “propaganda against the introduction of vaccination as a preventative measure against smallpox.”
That was also the year of the etching by James Gillray of Edward Jenner vaccinating people, who were then turning into cows!
“Dr. Jenner, an excellent portrait, is seen in the exercise of his discovery; a workhouse lad, impressed into the service as his assistant, is holding a milk-pail filled with “vaccine pock hot from the cow.” A second doctor is in attendance, dispensing medicines to promote the effects of the vaccination, which are strongly developed on all sides. Various whimsical results are pictured in the unfortunate subjects with whom the process may be said to have “taken.” A picture in the background, founded on the worship of the golden cadf, represents the adoration of a cow.”
The satirical etchings of James Gillray
Yes, the Cow Pock etching is satire. He was poking fun at anti-vax folks.
And while he was maybe the first, Gillray certainly wasn’t the last to use cartoons to help illustrate the dangers of the anti-vaccine movement.
Vaccination against small pox, or mercenary & merciless spreaders of death & devastation driven out of society was printed in 1808.
The etching by Isaac Cruikshank depicts Edward Jenner driving “three old-fashioned doctors, practicers of inoculation” out of town.
In 1838, The Chirurgico ComicoAlphabet included this Vaccination cartoon.
There wasn’t an entry for smallpox…
How well do vaccines work?
Not well enough to inoculate us against a “Swindling Bank President…
The illustration above was made by Joseph Ferdinand Keppler in 1885.
Vaccine Cartoons That Make You Think
Who is most likely to allow misinformation to blindly lead them “off a cliff?”
These cartoons from the 1930s American Public Health Association “Health in Pictures” cartoon booklet can help us see that the anti-vaccine movement hasn’t changed much over the years.
Well maybe they have.
Anti-vax folks today aren’t vaccinating and protecting their animals either!
Many of these cartoonists, like Anne Mergen, did indeed give people something to think about.
What would you think about if you saw this cartoon?
Tom Little won the Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Cartooning in 1957 for his cartoon advocating the use of Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine.
Vaccine Cartoons Today
Unfortunately, the anti-vaccine movement continues to give cartoonists, animators, and writers plenty of material.
Even SouthPark has done an episode about vaccines, as Cartman, who is afraid to get a shot, tries to get a religious exemption to stay in school.
And whether it was in the 1800s or the 21st Century, all of these cartoon images can provide some understanding of how people view public health and the need for vaccines.
“Nuisances and other perceived threats to health were not, of course, seen only in the pointed exaggerations of caricature; they were also available in news drawings and, sometimes, through direct personal observation. But an essential characteristic of the cartoons is their agitational character. They strove for change. To do this, they selected targets, they uncovered less visible problems, and they assigned responsibility for these problems.”
Bert Hansen on The image and advocacy of public health in American caricature and cartoons from 1860 to 1900.