Sunday, November 28

200 years of vaccine resistance started with the fear that babies would get horns and hooves

The writing “Vaccinae vindicia” or in defense of vaccination was written by Dr. Robert John Thornton in 1806. It contained this drawing. It was to illustrate a theory by Benjamin Moseley that injections with cowpox could make women want to have sexual intercourse with oxen and conceive children who were half cattle.

The first opponents of vaccines spread fears that babies who were half cows would be born.

  • Jess McHugh

    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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