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C h a p t e r Fiv e Anti-Vaccine Agitation, Parliamentary Politics, and the State in Germany, 1874–1914 At the 33rd World Health Assembly on May 8,1980,World Health Organization (WHO) officials announced the eradication of smallpox as a naturally occurring virus. Parents, public health and government officials celebrated the news,and for theWHO,it represented a major step forward in the fight against epidemic disease.The eradication of smallpox was a major victory for global health experts who had, over a period of decades, deployed vast financial and human resources in their efforts to eradicate the disease.1 In collaboration with governments in the developing and the developed world,officials at the WHO had taken an aggressive and sometimes controversial approach in their campaign to vaccinate hundreds of millions of at-risk young people in Asia, Africa, and South America.2 In some cases, medical officers joined with the police and army to secure local communities and to physically restrain parents while children were vaccinated.3 More than one observer compared the global vaccine project to a military campaign.4 The WHO, it appeared, had won the war. Critics of these aggressive tactics wondered, though, which war it was that the WHO was fighting. As they pointed out, the campaign against smallpox did not address the root causes of global health inequalities . Some argued that global resources would have been better deployed to ensure access to clean drinking water, hygiene infrastructure , sexual health education, and on-the-ground medical facilities.5 It • • Anti-Vaccine Agitation, Parliamentary Politics, and the State 115 is not my goal here to evaluate the relative merits of these competing visions of public health. I do want to make clear, however, that public health initiatives like the WHO smallpox eradication program are never simply about public health: for almost two centuries, the attempt to control and ultimately eradicate smallpox has raised questions about individual and community rights, the prerogatives of medical elites and public health officers, and the scope of state power. Beginning in 1874, when compulsory vaccination was introduced in Germany, parents, activists , elected officials, and ministry bureaucracies fought over these issues. The 1874 vaccine law represented a key site in ongoing debates over medical pluralism. This chapter traces the history of anti-vaccine agitation and shows how changing ideas about publicity shaped the strategies of both advocates and critics of the law. I show how emotion and anxiety were mobilized to overturn the law, and how this appeal to the instincts deployed scientific method and new forms of publicity to reach the widest possible audience.6 To critics, compulsory vaccination represented a dangerous expansion of state-sponsored medicine and an abrogation of the individual’s right to control his or her own body. Protest against compulsory vaccination was so powerful because it drew from multiple and overlapping communities of concern. It was driven by concerns about risk, rights, and choice.7 Given the popularity of medical alternatives like Naturheilkunde, the right to make medical decisions took on an added dimension. For the many committed followers of natural healing,compulsory vaccination was just the most egregious example of an imperialistic medical establishment. Anti-vaccine activists waged an extraordinarily effective public relations campaign. Doctors were less successful. As they had so many times before, doctors failed to listen to grievances from their critics, choosing instead to attack those on the other side of the issue. This failure to address the concerns of an anxious public did little to enhance public perceptions of the medical establishment .In fact,the perception that medical authorities were aloof and unresponsive to those they served helped to galvanize a broad coalition dedicated to a free medical marketplace. In this chapter, I use the umbrella term “anti-vaccine activist” to describe the broad and fluid coalition that came together to challenge 116 we lived for the body various aspects of the 1874 vaccine law. The core of this community included the usual suspects from popular health and hygiene reform groups like the German League, the Anti-Vaccination League, and the Doctors’Association for Physical and Dietary Therapy. More interesting , though, is the way that anti-vaccine activism exceeded the boundaries of these now familiar reform movements. Anti-vaccine activism included concerned parents with little interest in Naturheilkunde, it included lawyers and lawmakers concerned about the exercise of unrestrained state power, and it included public-health and hygiene specialists who were not convinced of the biomedical efficacy of...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781609091545
Related ISBN
9780875807041
MARC Record
OCLC
890248943
Launched on MUSE
2014-09-09
Language
English
Open Access
No
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