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.
the Texas Department of Health Resources made up to 7 different vaccines
the University of Illinois made a BCG vaccine
the Michigan Department of Public Health made up to 8 different vaccines
Massachusetts Public Health Biological Laboratories (Mass Biologics) made several vaccines
These included many generic vaccines, including DPT and IPV.
In fact, the Massachusetts Public Health Biological Laboratories continues to make the last remaining generic vaccines, DT and Td.
Why Aren’t There More Generic Vaccines?
Couldn’t more pharmaceutical companies make vaccines, including more generic vaccines, so that they could be less expensive?
“In sum, although patent protection remains the major barrier to the production of affordable small-molecule generics, access to trade-secret–protected information and know-how present major additional obstacles to generic production of vaccines.”
Improving Global Access to New Vaccines: Intellectual Property, Technology Transfer, and Regulatory Pathways
Unfortunately, unlike drugs, patents aren’t the only issue when making a generic vaccine. You also need the expertise, investment, and studies to prove that your generic vaccine is as safe and effective as similar vaccines.
This year, we sometimes get reports of 37 cases in a week.
A rise in measles cases all over the world happened. And since folks do travel, that led to outbreaks in any community that doesn’t have high rates of vaccination.
How an Anti-Vaccine Safety Handbook Has Caused the Longest Measles Outbreak in Recent History
And that’s where the PEACH Vaccine Safety Handbook comes into play.
Since at least 2014, the PEACH project folks and have been distributing their magazines filled with misinformation about vaccines in Orthodox Jewish communities.
In addition to Lakewood, the PEACH magazine was sent to “a mailing list that included a comprehensive directory of Pittsburgh families affiliated with various branches of Orthodoxy.”
And it found its way to Brooklyn and other Orthodox communities. Many of the same communities where we are now seeing the largest measles outbreaks in recent history, although there are plenty of outbreaks in other places too.
Surprisingly, PEACH is pure PRATT – anti-vaccine points refuted a thousand times.
The cartoons were a nice touch, but should have been a tip-off that none of it was true! There is even a cartoon about the HAZMAT myth.
It all does look very official and sounds scary though, so it is easy to see how parents could be mislead by the magazine, especially when they seem to cite references for all of their “facts.”
But let’s look at some of the facts in the above timeline:
is there any reason why Germany might have seen a rise in diphtheria cases in 1945?
Ghana was not declared measles-free in 1967. Unfortunately, Ghana is still not measles-free…
while the SV40 virus did contaminate some polio vaccines, it has not been associated with causing cancer or any other problems
whooping cough cases rose in Sweden and the UK because they stopped using the DPT vaccine in the late 1970s and 80s over fears of side effects. Of course, we now know that these fears were unfounded and many kids suffered because those fears were hyped by a few doctors, the media, and players from the start of the modern anti-vaccine movement
Jonas Salk testified that “mass inoculation against polio was the cause of most polio cases in the USA since 1961” because the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines had already controlled wild polio in the United States!!!
What about the idea that “the February 1981 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 90% of obstetricians and 66% of pediatricians refused to take the rubella vaccine?” That’s actually kind of true. But it was just a survey of a small number of employees at Los Angeles County University of Southern California Medical Center, most of whom believed that they actually were immune because they had likely been exposed to rubella so much in the past.
The rest of the magazine continues with the same kind of propaganda, trying to make folks think that vaccines don’t work, vaccines aren’t necessary, and that vaccines are dangerous.