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All Things Old Become New Again

By 

René F. Najera, DrPH

February 26, 2019

The  of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia has some fantastic historical artifacts. In the Scrapbook of Anti-Vaccinations Clippings, you can find the following card from the Anti-Vaccination Society of America:

In this invitation to join the society, you can see some interesting language used to self-describe the members:

“An Association of “half-mad”, “misguided” people, who write, and toil, and dream, of a time to come, when it shall be lawful to retain intact, the pure body Mother Nature gave, sends GREETING to a “suspect”. “Liberty cannot be given, it must be taken.”

One can only assume that the author of this invitation is mocking what has been said about their society. However, note what the rest of the message is similar to more modern anti-vaccine language of appeal to nature and to Liberty. If you included 25 cents, you got a certificate of membership. (There are some examples of the certificate of membership at the Historical Medical Library, so I invite you to visit and take a look.)

Today, there are similar invitations for people who are hesitant about vaccines to join groups of social media, follow video posts on YouTube or other video hosting sites, or to follow posts on  that are aimed at anti-vaccine audiences. There are also fundraising campaigns from people who want to raise money to produce , television, radio and print.

Since well before 1902, there have been groups and individuals who oppose laws and regulations aimed at compelling parents to vaccinate their children. They do so for a myriad of reasons, some personal and reasonable, some misinformed and unreasonable. Like in 1902, today we have large groups of people spreading misinformation about vaccines, but those messages are multiplied exponentially because of modern telecommunications.

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