13 Jan The Age-Old Struggle against the Antivaccinationists
Since the introduction of the first vaccine, there has been opposition to vaccination. In the 19th century, despite clear evidence of benefit, routine inoculation with cowpox to protect people against smallpox was hindered by a burgeoning antivaccination movement. The result was ongoing smallpox outbreaks and needless deaths. In 1910, Sir William Osler publicly expressed his frustration with the irrationality of the antivaccinationists by offering to take 10 vaccinated and 10 unvaccinated people with him into the next severe smallpox epidemic, to care for the latter when they inevitably succumbed to the disease, and ultimately to arrange for the funerals of those among them who would die (see the Medical Notes section of the Dec. 22, 1910, issue of the Journal). A century later, smallpox has been eradicated through vaccination, but we are still contending with antivaccinationists.