Tag: history of the anti-vaccine movement

Lora Little

Lora Little’s son died of measles and diphtheria when he was seven-years-old. She didn’t blame those vaccine-preventable diseases though. Instead, she blamed the smallpox vaccine that he had gotten to go to school earlier that year.

She soon became one of the most vocal anti-vaccine spokespeople of her time – the late 19th century. Her son was vaccinated in 1895.

In addition to speaking out against rules requiring vaccination to attend school, Little wrote a pamphlet, Crimes of the Cowpox Ring.

She even got an anti-vaccination law passed in Minnesota in 1903, one that made it so that children could not be made to get vaccinated as a condition to attend school. Not surprisingly, the state saw a smallpox epidemic in 1906.

For More Information on Lora Little:

  • Pox: An American History
  • Deadly Choices
  • Vaccine



Bill Maher on Vaccines

Bill Maher is well known for his anti-vaccine views.

On his own show, Real Time with Bill Maher, and when appearing on other shows, he has said that:

  • A flu shot is the worst thing you can do. (Larry King Live)
  • I don’t believe in vaccination either.
  • Measles is not really that deadly a disease.
  • I don’t understand why this is controversial? Why we have this emotional debate about something that—there is science there. It astounds me that liberals, who are always suspicious of corporations… and defending minorities, somehow when it comes to this minority that’s hurt, it’s like, ‘You know what? Shut the fuck up and let me take every vaccine that Merck wants to shove down my throat.’
  • I’ve never argued that vaccines don’t work. I just don’t think you need them… (Playboy interview)

Although he often says that he is not anti-vaccine, it is easy to see that Maher is hitting many classic anti-vaccine talking points, including that vaccine-preventable diseases aren’t that bad (they can be,  in fact, deadly), that vaccines injuries aren’t rare, and that vaccines aren’t necessary.

Maher also rejects the germ theory of disease that was first proposed by Louis Pasteur.

And in responding to critics of his views on vaccines, Bill Maher had this to say:

Now, sometimes its OK to fuck with nature — I believe “intelligent design” is often anything but intelligent; that “God’s perfect universe” is actually full of fuck ups and design flaws, like cleft lips and Down Syndrome — so correcting nature is sometimes the right thing to do. And then, sometimes its not. For me, the flu shot is in the “not” category.

As much as I dislike the high profile platform that he has to push his anti-vaccine views, the way he characterizes Down syndrome actually bothers me much more.

And that wasn’t even the only time he got into trouble talking about children with Down syndrome. In 2013, the National Down Syndrome Society and many others expressed their “deep disappointment and concern with your ongoing attacks on people who have Down syndrome.”

For More Information on Bill Maher:

Larry King on Vaccines

Most pediatricians can remember the increase in calls to their office from scared parents after these Larry King Live shows, such as when:

  • Bill Maher appeared in 2005 saying the flu shot is dangerous because it contains mercury and that getting  “a flu shot is the worst thing you can do”
  • Jenny McCarthy appeared in April 2008 to discuss vaccines and autism
  • Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey appeared in April 2009 to discuss vaccines and autism

Like Oprah and some others, Larry King has provided a high profile platform for many anti-vaccine celebrities and “to promote anti-vaccine pseudoscience.”

For More Information On Larry King:

Waldorf Schools and Vaccines

Waldorf schools are not art schools, they are not religious, and are very different from Montessori schools.

Waldorf schools have their foundations in anthroposophy, which they define as “the belief that humanity has the wisdom to transform itself and the world, through one’s own spiritual development.”

Waldorf schools are inspired by the work of Rudolf Steiner and Emil Molt. Steiner, an  Austrian scientist and thinker, established a school at the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory that was owned by Molt in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919.

You can learn all of this and more from their list of frequently asked questions about Waldorf Education.

What you don’t learn is that many of the kids that go to the 250 Waldorf schools in North America are not vaccinated, including schools with some of the highest vaccine exemption rates in the country, including:

  • Waldorf School of Mendocino County (California) – 79.1% vaccine exemption rate
  • Tuscon Waldorf Schools (Arizona) – 69.6% vaccine exemption rate
  • Waldorf School of San Diego (California) – 63.6% vaccine exemption rate
  • Orchard Valley Waldorf School (Vermont) – 59.4% MMR vaccine exemption rate
  • Whidbey Island Waldorf School (Washington) – 54.9% vaccine exemption rate
  • Austin Waldorf School (Texas) – 48% vaccine exemption rate

That shouldn’t be a surprise, as anthroposophical medicine “attempts to mix the theories and practices of real medicine with quack cures, physical and artistic therapies and biographical counseling” and “their anti-vaccination stance derives from a dangerous and ignorant belief in diseases being something you must go through to strengthen the soul in its present incarnation.”

It should be noted that Waldorf schools often note that they don’t encourage or recruit teachers or students who skip or delay getting vaccinated. It just seems to work out that way for all of their schools.

For More Information on Waldorf Schools and Vaccines:

Dan Burton on Vaccines and Autism

Dan Burton, a former Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Indiana (1983-2013), has been described as being “antivaccine through and through” and “organized quackery’s best friend in Congress.”

In an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN, Burton said:

My grandson got nine shots in one day, seven of which had mercury in them, and he became autistic in a very short period of time.

The problem with that statement, in addition to all of the studies that have shown that vaccines don’t cause autism, is that we never had seven vaccines with mercury.

The only vaccines routinely given to children with mercury, or thimerosal to be precise, were:

  • seasonal flu
  • hepatitis B
  • DTaP
  • Hib

It wasn’t 25 to 30 vaccines as Dan Burton has said. In fact, there are only 25 to 30 vaccines all together, and most never, ever had thimerosal, even before thimerosal began being phased out of vaccines in 1999.

And the vaccines that Burton’s grandson received were DTaP, MMR, OPV, and Comvax (Hib-HepB). Of those, MMR, OPV, and Comvax were always thimerosal free. So he only received one shot, DTaP, that could have contained thimerosal – not seven, as he continues to claim. That’s not even taking into account that there have always been some thimerosal free versions of DTaP available too.

Dan Burton held over 20 Congressional hearings trying to prove that there was a link between vaccines and autism. More than a dozen were held between 2000 and 2002.

Arthur Allen, in his book Vaccine The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver, describes Burton’s hearings as:

carefully choreographed to generate as much negative feeling toward the vaccination system as possible.

Dan Burton is also featured extensively in Paul Offit’s book Autism’s False Prophets, where we learn that:

The American media loved Dan Burton’s hearings.

That helped give Andrew Wakefield, who appeared at his hearings, and others who were pushing anti-vaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories a “very high profile platform.”

Fortunately, Burton’s last hearing was in 2012. That was well after the IOM reports and many other studies had found that there was no connection between vaccines and autism. So not surprisingly, he didn’t find a link…

He has since become a lobbyist for the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a group co-founded by the Church of Scientology, and which is against conventional psychiatric treatments, stating that “psychiatric disorders are not medical diseases,” and that psychiatry is “an industry of death.”

For More Information On Dan Burton:

George Bernard Shaw on Vaccines

George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950) was a famous Irish playwright who was known as the leading dramatist of his generation, winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1925.

He was also against vaccination, calling it “a peculiarly filthy piece of witchcraft.”

In 1944, in a letter to the Irish Times, he wrote that:

Within my long lifetime, its ruthless enforcement throughout Europe ended in two of the worst epidemics of smallpox in record, our former more dreaded typhus and cholera epidemics having meanwhile been ended by sanitation. After that failure, the credit of vaccination was saved for a while by the introduction of isolation, which at once produced improved figures. At present, intelligent people do not have their children vaccinated, nor does the law now compel them to. The result is not, as the Jennerians prophesied, the extermination of the human race by smallpox; on the contrary more people are now killed by vaccination than by smallpox.

He also said that “vaccination is nothing short of attempted murder” and wrote several letters that were printed in the British Medical Journal, which he called “bigotedly vaccinist.”

George Bernard Shaw was also against organized religion and believed in eugenics.

For More Information On George Bernard Shaw:

Lewis Carroll’s Adventures in Anti-VaccineLand

Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) is best known for writing Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

What do those books have to do with vaccines?


Lewis Carroll did get into a debate with someone that was pushing anti-vaccine misinformation about the smallpox vaccine.

Lewis Carroll liked to believe impossible things, but that the smallpox vaccine could cause other people to get smallpox wasn’t one of them.

In 1877, the Eastbourne Chronicle published a letter by Mr W Hume-Rothery, who claimed that the smallpox vaccine “was causing smallpox in large numbers of people” and discredited the value of vaccination in preventing smallpox.

According to Julie Leask, in her article “Should we do battle with antivaccination activists:”

Using his real name of Charles L Dodgson, Carroll refuted the claims with his characteristic eloquence. This correspondence escalated into an increasingly defensive exchange between Carroll and Hume-Rothery, in which Carroll, “a trifle ruffled but keeping to the point, retired after the third round”. His opponent continued vigorously until the editor ended the correspondence.

Of course, the smallpox vaccine, can’t cause smallpox. It is made using the vaccinia virus.

Vaccinia is a pox-type virus that is related to smallpox. That’s why vaccination with the smallpox vaccine creates immunity against smallpox. You can’t get smallpox or cause someone else to have smallpox after getting vaccinated though.

You could get smallpox from the previous method that was used to induce immunity – variolation, but Jenner’s smallpox vaccine was much safer and had long replaced variolation when Carroll and Hume-Rothery were having their ‘debate.’

And like those who make anti-vaccine arguments today, Hume-Rothery either made a mistake or was intentionally trying to deceive people. In one of his letters, Dodgson “claimed that just using the percentage of deaths among vaccinated patients , without comparing it with the percentage of deaths among the nonvaccinated, proves nothing.”

Who knew that Dodgson also studied epidemiology…

For more information: