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This essay investigates the literature available on the history of vaccination. It particularly focuses on how an epidemic of Pox significantly altered the rules of vaccination. According to history, there had been a case of smallpox outbreak in the All Nations block and the state resolved to vaccinate anybody and everybody they could lay their hands on. On this particular day, the vaccination team, constituting of 250 men busted into the Italy tenet house unannounced at night and started vaccinating the occupants. They employed the services of police officers who would hold down anybody who dared resist vaccination. They moved from one room to another as they searched for people who had been infected, mostly children, they were later transferred to isolation facilities that were often referred to as the pest houses. Quite a dreaded place and more often associated with death. It held all individuals who were victims of small pox which until then had no cure and only the symptoms could be treated (Hopkins, page 391).
The vaccination campaign was thereafter made mandatory to everybody as the epidemic tore through the country. In New York and Boston which were the worst hit, several raids had been done in schools, public places, factories and even railway terminus. The activities that followed during this particular period redefined the rules of vaccination. The protocol can be considered sensible by any rational individual, the activity was medically based and considering what the city had gone through in the previous years at the hands of this deadly contagious disease, nobody would expect any resistance to vaccination. During that period, the disease was so fatal that it killed nearly 30% of all who were infected. The survivors were often left with disfigured bodies and nasty scars all over the body. The discovery of the vaccine was considered a major milestone in the medical field (Brilliant, page 172).
Vaccination was always a governmental initiative during this period but strangely enough, the state did not involve itself in actually ascertaining how safe the vaccines were or how effectively they could control the infections. The general public therefore formulated their own opinions concerning the vaccines which were mostly negative thus leading to individuals opting to evade the activity. The will of the individuals were violated grossly and many people received forced vaccination. The police force tried their best to round up every single individual and ensured that they got the vaccine and in some situations even going as far as hand-cuffing them or have it done at gunpoint. This raised suspicion among the public especially the African-Americans and people of other nationalities. These ugly scenes went against the notion most people held about the liberty America accorded to its citizens. People were quarantined in the pest houses no matter how much they pleaded their opinions on how they should be handled were not even an issue to be debated (Hopkins, page 391).
For a willing patient, the vaccination activity would last just less than two minutes. The skin on the arm was gently scored using a needle or a lancet and then uses cotton wool to dub the vaccine on to that scored skin. They could also use an ivory point that had been coated with a dry vaccine. The vaccine was obtained from a sore of a calf that was infected with cowpox. The live cowpox or a vaccinia virus could produce a blister on the individual on the location it was introduced. It would later heal but a permanent scar would remain at that point and after that, the person will be immune to smallpox for the next 5-7 years or even a longer time. One must be really wondering why a sensible person who cared about his health would resist vaccination considering how fatal smallpox is. The public actually had a valid argument; they believed that the vaccination would cause autism if administered, a belief some people still hold. They also imagined other situations where someone introduces cowpox viruses to your healthy body, how would that sound? So why would you agree to contract autism or any other disease and you were not infected yet by smallpox? Maybe you would have even been lucky enough not to be infected. This argument is even still stuck in some mind to date despite several organizations reaching far and wide to convince people of how safe they are. This is evidenced by many parents opting to turn down some types of vaccination and a huge percentage has been observed to do so (Brilliant, page 172).
The anti-vaccinationists actually started a, movement which worked remarkably fine even though they were not very large in numbers. They were very vocal and stood for what they believed in. they considered themselves as people who belonged to the Transatlantic Movement and dedicated their lives to fighting for individuals liberty and resisted the encroachment by the so called Leviathan state. They made publications filled with gory scenes of vaccination and strong opinions on the personal liberty of each individual. They argued that the US constitution upheld rights to every individual including rights to bodily integrity, freedom of choice whether to be vaccinated or not and family privacy. In that particular day at All Nation Block, it was actually on Thanksgiving Day when the epidemic struck the West Side. The infection had actually happened earlier and the health officers had identified the two children who had the first infection, this was necessary since the disease is highly contagious and any contact would transmit it and thus everyone had to be vaccinated. Those who had already been infected were to be taken into quarantine immediately (Hopkins, page 391).
The climax was set when the appeal of Jacobson reached the Supreme Court in Jacobson versus Massachusetts. Jacobson was a Swede immigrant minister at Cambridge; he declined to be vaccinated against the decree that everybody be vaccinated. He explained that he had fallen very ill after he had been vaccinated as a child and his son too fell very ill after receiving the vaccination. This battle between the state and those who opposed vaccination had gone on for a long time after several appeals by Jacobson and came to the Supreme Court in 1902. The Supreme Court had to make a decision and it held that the state could order compulsory vaccination but had a no right to carry it forceful even during an epidemic even though it was for the best interest of the general population and only intended to protect its people from the deadly disease. This would otherwise be unconstitutional and would interfere with individual rights. There was, however, a limitation to this rule, It was not absolute and the liberty of the individual had to be considered. The measures taken had to be reasonable and anybody who could prove the undesired effect the vaccine had on them would not be forced into taking the vaccine. It also emphasized that the state could not use excessive force in vaccinating the public as this would violate their rights (Brilliant, page 172).
The ruling brought a new dimension to vaccination whereby people had to choose whether to be vaccinated or not. This led to isolated cases of smallpox outbreaks majorly in low income residential areas. Boston Health Authorities, however, continued to carry out forced vaccinations especially in the poor neighborhoods in the city as they tried to control the contagious diseases. Mandatory vaccination against smallpox was only stopped in 1972 in the US when they felt it was somehow eradicated and no longer epidemic. The above mentioned court ruling in Massachusetts applied to all vaccinations that are government driven or that will affect a large population. This thus led to the health sector taking into consideration the will of the individual to be vaccinated, he can choose not to be vaccinated and not be forced even though he might be in a position to infect the other individuals. Personal rights are therefore considered to override the decisions of the state on public interest (Hopkins, page 391).
Currently, smallpox is the only major disease that the WHO considers has been eradicated as an epidemic and only a few cases reported annually worldwide. This disease had ravaged the past generations and its memories still haunt its victims some even left blind by its severity. The strain variola major is the most serious one and has fatality rate of about 40% among persons who are not vaccinated. The vaccination activity that happened in Kentucky during that period brought another different dimension to how individuals were to be handled, infected or not. In Middlesboro, which was majorly occupied by the black Americans, little attention had actually been paid to their need for health facilities. There had been a smallpox outbreak but since it was predominantly in that particular location, nothing much was done.
Later on, the health officers realized that the infection could spread even to the whites. Police officers and vaccinators were dispatched to this location and people vaccinated forcibly at gunpoint. Others were rounded up, handcuffed, women screaming and children struggling to get away but all on vain. This was the period racial segregation was at its peak, the black Americans were forced to walk with their vaccination certificates and the vaccination scar had to be seen so that they are allowed in public places. This was majorly targeted on the black Americans and thereby violating their civil rights (Brilliant, page 172).
The smallpox epidemic at the onset of 20th century therefore changed the rules of vaccination and individuals could be given a chance to make decisions regarding their health. The state could make a decree that everybody be vaccinated but the individual has a choice whether to be vaccinated or not. No individual could be directly targeted by the vaccination exercise thus personal liberty was to be upheld thereafter.