The first opponents of vaccines spread fears that babies who were half cows would be born.
The Washington Post
In the early 19th century, the British gained access to the first vaccine in history. It was supposed to protect them from smallpox, one of the deadliest diseases of our time.
Many Britons were skeptical. The unrest extended far beyond fatigue and sore arm, which affect many today. The side effects they feared were far more frightening: They were afraid of blindness, deafness, open sores and a terrible skin disease called chickenpox. They also feared that the vaccine would give them horns and hooves.
Thus, the first movement of vaccine resistance was born.
Faced with superstition and mistrust
In 1796, Edward Jenner made a groundbreaking discovery. The deadly smallpox virus could be prevented with a vaccine against chickenpox. Many doctors cheered. But some Britons faced the news with superstition and distrust bordering on hysteria.
Over the next 100 years, resistance grew to become one of the largest British mass movements.
People refused to be vaccinated for medical, religious and political reasons. The country was thrown into a bitter battle. It raged for generations and gave rise to contemporary conspiracy theories.
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