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Vaccination has been a controversial subject and we tend to think that this is a new phenomenon. Proponents of vaccination blame anti-vax parents for the recent cropping-up of preventable (and formerly eliminated) diseases such as the NYC measles outbreak in 2014, and the return of Pertussis in 2015. While parents who oppose vaccination or those who believe in vaccine choice are suspicious of the CDC’s rigorous vaccine schedule, “Big Pharma,” and the possibility of vaccine injury due to questionable ingredients. But this is NOT new. Debate and conflict have existed around the use and efficacy of immunizations since the practice first came into use. This episode considers the history of immunization and its opponents.

Show Notes and Further Reading:

Arthur Boylston, “The Origins of Inoculation,” Journal of the Royal Society of MedicineJuly 2012

Daniel R. Bronfin, Childhood Immunization Controversies: What are Parents Asking?”, The Ochsner Journal, Fall 2008

Carole Emberton, “The Minister of Death,” The New York Times Opinionator BlogAugust 17, 2012

Amy Lynn Filsinger & Raymond Dwek,George Washington and the First Mass Military Inoculation,” The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress.

“History of Anti-Vaccination Movements,” The History of VaccinesJanuary 25, 2016

Humphries, Margaret. The Marrow of Tragedy: The Health Crisis of the American Civil War (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 2013).

Charlotte DeCroes Jacobs, “Vaccinations Have Always Been Controversial in America,” Time Magazine, July 31, 2015

Robert Middlekauff, The Mathers: Three Generations of Puritan Intellectuals, 1596-1728. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

Terry Reimer, “Smallpox and Vaccination in the Civil War,” The National Museum of Civil War Medicine November 9, 2004

Stefan Riedel, “Edward Jenner and the History of Smallpox and Vaccination,” Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings January 2005

Mariana Zapata, “How Civil Wars Gave Themselves Syphilis While Trying to Avoid Smallpox,” Atlas ObscuraNovember 30, 2016.


Featured image: An 1802 illustration depicts Edward Jenner vaccinating a young woman. (National Museum of Medicine)


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