Friday, January 18, 2008

Anti-Vaccination in 1888

Because the BL3 has been closed this week, I havent been able to do my usual research. So Ive been using my lab time to clean and reorganize the lab. I even rented one of those tiny bulldozers to clean out a long forgotten storage room so we could use it.

I found lots of great stuff, like pictures of the former department heads wife in shorts ripped across the butt (PIs loved that one) and 20 year old Scientific Americans.

The January 1988 SciAmerican has an article titled 'Scientific American, 50 and 100 years ago.' Its made up of blurbs from top stories in 1938 and 1888. You all will not believe one of the blurbs from 1888. Yes, 100 years ago*:

January 1888-- "The success of the anti-vaccinationists has been aptly shown by the results in Zurich, Switzerland, where for a number of years, until 1883, a culpulsory vaccination law obtained, and smallpox was wholly prevented-- not a single case occurred in 1882. This result was seized upon the following year by the antivaccinationists and used against the necessity for any such law, and it seems they had sufficient influence to cause its repeal. The death returns for that year (1883) showed that for every 1,000 deaths two were caused by smallpox; In 1884 there were three; in 1885, 17, and in the first quarter of 1886, 85."
Wow. Today we are getting the exact same arguments from the MMR folks-- "We dont need to vaccinate against measles! No one gets measles!", with the same results...

1888.

Thats nuts.



* The wording is a little weird, but I swear its word-for-word.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is the current bout of anti-vaccination hysteria confined only to the US?

It's quite amazing to read the extent of such pseudoscience. In my country, the efficacy of a compulsory vaccination program is clear to see. One only needs to look at the benefits of the polio eradication initiative taken by the Government of India.

Although, there were a minority of people (usually religious) who opposed the vaccination program on misinformation thinking that the oral polio vaccine causes sterility.

Kristjan Wager said...

The UK has also had some very serious problems with anti-vaccination hysteria.

The Factician said...

I know I've written this here before, but you have *got* to read Vaccine by Arthur Allen. I'm about half way through (those of us with kids read a little slowly - it's hard to find the time to read anything longer than a blog post). It's a fantastic read, and it's got bits of anti-vaccine hysteria in just about every decade since variolation was first introduced over 200 years ago.

*Very* good book, and well-researched.

Bayesian Bouffant, FCD said...

The January 1988 SciAmerican...

child, isn't that before you were born?

ERV said...

I was four.

:P

Wicked Lad said...

Amazing and cogent. I must remember this next time I'm arguing with an antivaxer.

Part of our sense of "weird wording" here is SciAm's 1888 use of "obtain" in a way that's unusual these days. See the American Heritage Dictionary's definition of "obtain" as an intransitive verb.

alloy said...

I'm all for critical review of individual vaccines, we must be ever vigilant of potential negative side effects of individual preparations, but these concerns need to be investigated rationally without hysteria.

The overall efficacy of immunisations is without question.

Anonymous said...

I'm a first time visitor to your site. I listened to the program at the link "debate with an AIDS denier". Let me state that I have never heard of Dr. Len Horowitz before today. I have a couple of comments.
First, I usually think of an "AIDS denier" as someone who denies that the HIV virus causes AIDS. I never heard Horowitz say anything to that effect in the program, so I must conclude that your characterization of him is woefully inaccurate as well as highly inflammatory, if not libelous.
Secondly, there are certainly things about Horowitz that raise enormous red flags for me, including the nature of the products you and the caller stated that he sells (colloidal silver, "magic tunes", etc.) and his mention of "electrogenetics".
During the program, however, he, in my judgment "won the debate" by sticking to logical arguments based on his facts and research. You lost, in my view, because instead of attacking his arguments, which would be the adult thing to do, you displayed an intensely embarrassing immaturity by indulging in the most childish and reprehensible personal ad hominem attacks on his person and not attacking his arguments. Questioning his credibility because he has a degree in dentistry, among others? Dear, you sounded like the snottiest sixteen-year old high school prom queen imaginable, instead of like a scientist, which is what you claim yourself to be. In my mind, you have not yet attained credibility as a professional and as an adult.
For the sake of the career you would like to have, you need to consider this because it really was quite an ugly display.

Kristjan Wager said...

"During the program, however, he, in my judgment "won the debate" by sticking to logical arguments based on his facts and research."

Since he had no facts and research, he could hardly have won by sticking to that. Maybe you mean he convinced you by sticking to his lies?

"you displayed an intensely embarrassing immaturity by indulging in the most childish and reprehensible personal ad hominem attacks on his person and not attacking his arguments. Questioning his credibility because he has a degree in dentistry, among others? Dear, you sounded like the snottiest sixteen-year old high school prom queen imaginable, instead of like a scientist, which is what you claim yourself to be. In my mind, you have not yet attained credibility as a professional and as an adult."

So it's an ad hominem attack to point out that his degree with dentistry was irrelevant, after he demanded to be addressed as Doctor instead of Mister? I hardly think so. You might think it rude, but it's not a logical fallacy. Learn what the words mean, before trying to use them.

You, the other hand, sounds like a arrogant twit, with your "Dear" and all.

Oh, and I don't think any of us really buy your claims of not having heard about Horowitz before, though I'll grant you that he is not an AIDS-denier in the classic sense - rather he is a conspiracy theorist, who denies the well-documented origins of the virus.

Dmitry said...

Well, time to broaden a geography of obscurantism a bit:)
Recently I've been listening to a radio talk program on one of the Russian mainstream radio channels. The topic was "to vaccinate small children or not to?"
There was not even a tinge of religion in there and amogst invited guests were "respectful" and "competent" clinicians and authorities from health care system.
Honestly, I was deeply shocked by the situation (which I wasn't aware of) - all these clinical people for around an hour were trying to persuade people NOT TO VACCINATE their children with the main reasons being side effects, huge pressure on immune system of developing child and harmful additives to vaccines (thimerosal, 2-Phenoxyethanol).
Effect was clearly seen upon annoucement of internet poll results - 83% (!!!) of Russian respondents don't want/will not vaccinate their children...

Tyler DiPietro said...

anon, I find it interesting that you accuse Abbie of resorting ad homs. What show were you listening to? Horrowitz was on one big political tirade about some conspiracy and implicitly accused scientists who back the HIV/AIDS fact (every scientists work the paper their degrees are printed on) of being in on it. Ad homs, subject-motive shifts, etc. It was all there, hardly "logical arguments".

Zach Kessin said...

There was some anti-vac movement here in Israel in the ultra orthodox community. However there was a major measles outbreak this summer and all of the sudden everyone seems to be vaccinating their kids.