Tag: cartoons

Wonder Why My Parents Didn’t Give Me Vaccines?

Did your parents vaccinate and protect you against polio, measles, and whatever other diseases were vaccine preventable when you were a child?

Tom Little's editorial cartoon about an unvaccinated child with polio originally appeared in the Nashville Tennessean on January 12, 1956.
Tom Little’s editorial cartoon about an unvaccinated child with polio originally appeared in the Nashville Tennessean on January 12, 1956.

Or did they skip and delay a few, hoping you wouldn’t get sick?

Wonder Why My Parents Didn’t Give Me Salk Shots?

Tom Little helped parents understand what that might feel like without actually having to regret making a poor decision.

The inspiration for Tom Little's cartoon came from thinking of the "children who were left unprotected from from polio through no fault of their own."
The inspiration for Tom Little’s cartoon came from thinking of the “children who were left unprotected from from polio through no fault of their own.”

In addition to receiving a number of prizes and awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartoons, he helped convince a lot of parents to vaccinate and protect their kids against polio.

Tom Little's cartoon helped get kids vaccinated and protected.
Tom Little’s cartoon helped get kids vaccinated and protected.

The cartoon, published 64 years ago, was so effective, it was distributed nationally by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.

Would it be effective today?

In 1972, there was an outbreak of paralytic polio among unvaccinated students at Daycroft, a Christian Science boarding school in Greenwich, Connecticut.

What do kids think when they get sick after being exposed to a life-threatening disease that has been vaccine-preventable for many years?

Hopefully we won’t have much opportunity to find out…

More on Regret Not Vaccinating

Vaccine Cartoons and Caricatures

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the anti-vaccine movement has long been a good source of material for folks who draw cartoons and caricatures.

Mr. X let everyone know about that flu shots were being used to control people's minds!
Mr. X let everyone know about that flu shots were being used to control people’s minds!

And it still is!

Vaccine Cartoons and Caricatures

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?

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.

This etching of Charles Williams was made in 1802 as “propaganda against the introduction of vaccination as a preventative measure against smallpox.”

The Cow Pock is an etching by James Gillray.
The Cow Pock is an etching by James Gillray.

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.

Or the benefits of vaccines.

Vaccination against small pox, or mercenary & merciless spreaders of death & devastation driven out of society was printed in 1808.

Vaccination against Small Pox. Courtesy of The British Museum.
Vaccination against Small Pox. Courtesy of The British Museum.

The etching by Isaac Cruikshank depicts Edward Jenner driving “three old-fashioned doctors, practicers of inoculation” out of town.

This wood engraving from 1881 shows a crying child getting vaccinated in a room full of people waiting their turn.
This wood engraving from 1881 shows a crying child getting vaccinated in a room full of people waiting their turn. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

In 1838, The Chirurgico Comico Alphabet included this Vaccination cartoon.

The Chirurgico Comico Vaccination.

There wasn’t an entry for smallpox…

How well do vaccines work?

Not well enough to inoculate us against a “Swindling Bank President…

"Now, my friends, step right up and be vaccinated for all forms of disease to which bank officials are liable!"
“Now, my friends, step right up and be vaccinated for all forms of disease to which bank officials are liable!”

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?”

This cartoon illustrates how misinformation blindly leads people off of a cliff to their getting vaccine preventable diseases.
This cartoon illustrates how misinformation blindly leads people off of a cliff to their getting vaccine preventable diseases.

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.

Controlling these diseases is going to take more than just good hygiene and sanitation.
Controlling these diseases is going to take more than just good hygiene and sanitation.

Well maybe they have.

Vaccines are important for people and our pets.

Anti-vax folks today aren’t vaccinating and protecting their animals either!

Let's give them something to think about.
Let’s give them something to think about.

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?

The cartoon "Wonder Why My Parents Didn't Give Me Salk Shots?" was published on January 12, 1956.
“Wonder Why My Parents Didn’t Give Me Salk Shots?” was published on January 12, 1956 and “was aimed at parental apathy surrounding the new cure for polio.”

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.

Lois and Peter are alone at their anti-vaccine rally, but still manage to trigger a measles outbreak at Stewie's daycare.
Lois and Peter (The Family Guy) are alone at their anti-vaccine rally, but still manage to trigger a measles outbreak at Stewie’s daycare.

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.

Chicken pox party - The Simpsons did it.
Chicken pox party – The Simpsons did it.

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.

Fortunately, most understand that vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are necessary.

More on Vaccine Cartoons