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Meet the Toronto anti-vaxxers of 1919 who saw compulsory vaccination in the wake of a smallpox outbreak as potentially harmful and a violation of personal liberty

Posted By: NaturalWisdom
Date: Tuesday, 3-Jan-2023 19:33:04
www.rumormill.news/214606

Intro:
When smallpox hit Toronto a century ago, the city’s medical officer of health ordered a general vaccination — triggering protests, court cases, and dire warnings of mutilations, syphilis, and death

‘Stop the slaughter of the innocents’: Meet the anti-vaxxers of 1919
Written by Jamie Bradburn
tvoToday
Jan 15, 2020

[snip]

Vaccination is vexation,
Smallpox is much worse;
The former leads to irritation,


The latter to the hearse.

– Poem published on the editorial page of the Globe, November 8, 1919.

Much as it is now, vaccination was a hot topic a century ago. A smallpox outbreak in Toronto in late 1919 gave rise to disagreements familiar to us today, as medical officials who saw compulsory immunization as a disease-prevention aid that reduced the effects of outbreaks of illnesses faced off against those who saw forcing vaccines, especially upon children, as a potentially harmful and totally unnecessary violation of personal liberty.

During the late 19th century, there were legitimate safety concerns about vaccination, including contaminated inoculations, dirty needles, and poor aftercare. While the medical community worked to reduce the risks involved, not everyone was convinced that they wouldn’t suffer awful complications. The Anti-Vaccination League, formed in 1900, opposed any legislation compelling vaccination, preferring British law, which allowed rejection of treatment on conscientious grounds.

Using a 5,000-signature petition, the AVL successfully convinced Toronto’s city council in 1906 to repeal a bylaw mandating vaccination for school children. Over time, as medical and sanitary improvements reduced side effects, debates over vaccination turned philosophical, focusing on personal liberty and class. The AVL believed that the burden of immunization fell on working-class families and highlighted cases in which lower-income men struggled to support their families as they recovered from post-vaccination pain and stiffness.

Provincial officials were not swayed by these arguments. Public-information campaigns contrasted the safety of vaccines with the dangers posed by smallpox and other diseases. The Vaccination Act of 1914 gave municipal-health officers across Ontario the power to order general immunization during outbreaks. During the First World War, many people saw immunization as a patriotic act, something that kept everyone healthy and ready to fight in the trenches and on the homefront.

Following the war, amid the social unrest of the period, some Ontarians viewed vaccination as an unnecessary risk. The attitude stemmed from the trauma caused by family losses during the war and the flu epidemic, from the recirculation of old stories, and from the sense that forced immunization violated the ideals of personal liberty that soldiers had recently fought for. Support for the AVL came from a variety of groups, including homeopaths, labour leaders, and parents who resented the intrusion of medical professionals into areas traditionally reserved for family care.

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