The Quote Garden

 I dig old books.

 Est. 1998

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Quotations about Vaccination
& Anti-Vaccination

Welcome to my page of quotations about vaccinations and immunization. As long as there have been vaccines, there have been vaccine opponents — anti-vaxxers, as they're known nowadays. It always makes me wonder: Will science ever be universally accepted?  —ღ Terri

It will require an immense accumulation of facts, more than the world ever saw, to shake our faith in the protective influence of vaccination. ~John B. Porter, M.D., Surgeon, U.S. Army, The American Journal of the Medical Sciences, 1853

The lady entertained me with an oration of at least a quarter of an hour: "I would not have a child of mine inoculated, no not for all the world; it seems so unnateral. It is very wicked to take the power out of God Almighty's hands." ~Aculeus, Letters to Dr. Rowley, on His Late Pamphlet, Entitled "Cow-Pox Inoculation: No Security against Small-Pox Infection," 1805

It may not only be advanced, that the act of Inoculation is tacitly commanded by the law of GOD, but that it is in itself an indispensable moral duty. — That every man is under an obligation to preserve and employ the life given him by his CREATOR, to the best of purposes, cannot be denied. Neither is any man to live to himself: all are bound to the LORD of the universe faithfully to discharge their duties in their several stations, to the honour and glory of their CREATOR, and the good of their fellow-creatures. ~Robert Houlton, The Practice of Inoculation Justified: A Sermon, preached at Ingatestone, Essex, 1766

Compulsory Vaccination!! A Crime Against Nature!! An Outrage Upon Society!! A Libel upon the Wisdom and Goodness of the Creator!! A Medical Delusion!! A Legislative Blunder!! and A Dark Blot upon our Civilization!! ~W. Halket, Associate of the Medical Reform Society, title of anti-vaccination pamphlet, 1870, London

Despite the miracle of the Salk vaccine, many people have neglected to take advantage of it. There should be a vaccine against stupidity. ~Walter Winchell, 1959  [Winchell had previously told his radio listeners, in 1954, that the polio vaccine "may be a killer" because of the defective batch with the live virus. —tg]

150 people die every year from being hit by falling coconuts. Not to worry, drug makers are developing a vaccine. ~Jim Carrey, @JimCarrey, tweet, 2009

The achievement of Jenner was at once a turning-point in the history of smallpox, and a new era in the physical welfare of mankind. ~Dr. August Hirsch (1817–1894), "Smallpox," Handbook of Geographical and Historical Pathology: Acute Infective Diseases, translated from the second German edition by Charles Creighton, M.D., 1881  [a little altered —tg]

Smallpox is a ravaging pestilence. It can be only folly or stupidity that would seek nowadays to minimize or to question the immortal merits of Jenner, to foolishly attempt to discredit vaccination. ~Dr. August Hirsch (1817–1894), "Smallpox," Handbook of Geographical and Historical Pathology: Acute Infective Diseases, translated from the second German edition by Charles Creighton, M.D., 1881  [a little altered —tg]

Inoculation by cowpox virus as an immunity for smallpox causes a disease called vaccines. ~Elbert Hubbard, "Dr. Jenner's Discovery," 1906

We, as a body of England's Medical Reformers and Anti-Vaccinators, have set our hands to this work, from which we shall not rest nor desist till we see this Compulsory Law of Vaccination Repealed — till we see this unclean idol or image of the beast brought down to rise no more; its corruption and ghastliness buried deep in the dust, that it may no more poison and pollute this fair earth — efface the divine image from man, placing on him the mark of the beast, and marring the beauty, the purity, and the perfection of the CREATOR'S WORKS. ~W. Halket, anti-vaccination booklet, 1870, London

Suppose, however, for the sake of argument, that we accept the proposition that the functions of the State may be properly summed up in the one great negative commandment — "Thou shalt not allow any man to interfere with the liberty of any other man" — I am unable to see that the logical consequence is any such restriction of the power of government, as its supporters imply. If my next-door neighbor chooses to have his drains in such a state as to create a poisonous atmosphere, which I breathe at the risk of typhus and diphtheria, he restricts my just freedom to live just as much as if he went about with a pistol, threatening my life; if he is to be allowed to let his children go unvaccinated, he might as well be allowed to leave strychnine-lozenges about in the way of mine; and if he brings them up untaught and untrained to earn their living, he is doing his best to restrict my freedom, by increasing the burden of taxation for the support of jails and workhouses, which I have to pay. ~T. H. Huxley, "Administrative Nihilism," an address to the members of the Midland Institute, 1871

Small-pox Fiend, of features foul,
Bloated shape, and haggard soul,
Borne on many a motley wing,
Dares attack the village-ring;
Disunites whom love united,
Makes the fairest maiden slighted;
Blights the lilies on her brow,
Makes the swain revoke his vow;
Taints the life-breeze of the grove,
Foe to beauty, foe to love...
Wizard-drop was thence convey'd,
Pendent on the arrowy reed,
Which, into thy life-stream sent,
Many a mischief shall prevent;
Draw, by force of magic spell,
Many a traitor, from his cell,
Which recumbent yet remains,
Lurking in thy azure veins,
Leagued with that pestiferous wight,
Nature's bane, and beauty's blight:
Thus shall I preserve from harms
All the magic of thy charms,
Which if despoil'd, no art of mine
Could e'er ensure thy shepherd thine...
The young love-god's remedy;
Which now, with philanthropic mind,
He promulgates to all mankind,
Shall triumph o'er this goblin foe,
That lays full many a fair one low;
That no fond maiden's heart may ache,
For blighted charms, or lover's sake;
That no fond mother, meek and mild,
May tremble for her darling child...
May the fair then give, with me,
Thanks, O Jenner, thanks to thee.
~John Williams, "Anacreontic: An Ode on the Discovery of Vaccination," 1810  [a little altered —tg]

O Jenner! Be it known, 'tis his imperial right,
To give diseases wing, or stay their flight.
From his decree, learns beauty, where to bloom,
And languor, when to leave the sick-man's room...
A fearful Plague, whose black envenom'd breath
Loads the pure air, with misery and death,
Dire as the pest, that smote thy servant Job,
Hath long run riot round this motley globe;
On beauty's native sweets profanely trod,
And marr'd, with cruel joy, the works of God...
Since now thou deign'st those evils to repair,
And check'st the rueful dæmon in mid-air;
Bid'st thine own Jenner wave his mystic rod,
And the fell pest obeys the pow'r of God;
Abjur'd by him, it quits its destin'd prey,
Lets fall his purple crest and slinks away...
~John Williams, "Anacreontic: An Ode on the Discovery of Vaccination: Epilogue Addressed to the Venerable Dr. Jenner," 1810  [a little altered —tg]

The great obstacle to the general diffusion of the vaccine inoculation seems to proceed from the stupidity and apathy of the people... ~Mr. Mason, quoted in John Shoolbred, Report on the Progress of Vaccine Inoculation in Bengal, 1805  [a little altered —tg]

If the opposers of the Cow-pock inoculation to prevent Smallpox infection will obstinately and pertinaciously persist in their clamorous hostility, it is in vain to expect that they will be diverted from their purpose by argument; no accumulation of evidence, however satisfactory and conclusive, will compel them from their ground. It is private interest in opposition to public good. They attempt to speak to the prejudices of the multitude and frustrate the benevolent designs of the friends to humanity and Vaccination. The Small-pox is a loathsome, highly infectious, and mortal disease, and has swept off more of the human species than all the WARS, all the PLAGUE, and all the YELLOW FEVERS, that have ever devastated society. What reasonable opposition, then, could any person calculate on seeing made to a plan so simple and important as small-pox inoculation — would not any one suppose that such a plan should meet with instant and joyous support, not only from every parent of a family, but from the government, as the parent of the state, whose duty and interest it is to protect the lives of its subjects, and defend one individual against the wanton outrage of another? at least is it not reasonable to imagine, that no one would be found so stupid as to object to giving this benevolent scheme a fair trial? ~Aculeus, Letters to Dr. Rowley, on His Late Pamphlet, Entitled "Cow-Pox Inoculation: No Security against Small-Pox Infection," 1805  [a little altered —tg]

Once again the great state of North Carolina has proven that diet causes polio, and that the Salk Vaccine Story is not only a monumental hoax but a criminally dangerous one at that. ~Morris A. Bealle, "Compulsory Salk Vaccine Quadruples Polio in North Carolina," c.1959  [Hoax. Now there's a word we've become frightfully used to. —tg]

Inoculation... a duty people owe to themselves, to their families, and to society at large. For surely it is little less than criminal to expose helpless children to the attack of so terrible and fatal a malady as the Small-pox, when it may be readily avoided by the inoculation of so mild, simple, and safe a disease as that of the Cow-pox. ~Society for Bettering the Condition of the Poor, 1801, London

      Teacher:  Sterilized Stephen, do you bring with you a disinfected certificate of birth, baptism and successful vaccination? Have you had your arm inoculated with correct cholera serum? Have you had your vermiform appendix removed? Have you a Pasteurized certificate of immunity from croup, cold feet and cholera morbus? Do you promise for yourself, your heirs and assigns, for all ages, to use sterilized milk? Will you abjure every companion that sniffles? Do you promise to use an antiseptic slate sponge?
      Stephen:  Yes, ma'am.
      Teacher:  Then extract that one remaining milk tooth, tie a formaldehyde bag 'round your neck, and make your will. Come to‑morrow and you will be assigned an insulated seat in this Sanitary Schoolhouse. ~"The Schoolboy of 1905," in Life, 1904  [a little altered —tg]

Vaccinated and re-vaccinated, and ready to be vaccinated again, and yet afraid of small-pox! ~The Vaccination Inquirer and Health Review, 1883

Then there's the JOB-ly comforting bore: let us imagine small-pox, or cholera, or elephantiasis, or lumbago... to be very prevalent, then he's in his element. He finds out that you have either not, or that you just have been vaccinated; in the first case he informs you that hundreds of people expired only yesterday, and advises your immediate vaccination; in the second case he tells you that vaccination is often attended with far more serious consequences than anything else in the world, that it renders you always more liable to softening of the brain, and hardening of the vesicles of the cutaneous malacopterygious and sub-interior tissues of the mucous membrane, and so on, on, on. ~Hugh Rowley, "Spoonful VI," Sage Stuffing for Green Goslings; or, Saws for the Goose and Saws for the Gander, 1872

Moralists often warn us to avoid enemies. This would condemn us to a life of darkness and misery... To fight for existence, the best action consists in lulling and attenuating the virulence of our emulators and adversaries with the chloroform of courtesy and flattery. Let us proceed as does the bacteriologist: in the impossibility of annihilating the microbe, he chooses to embolize it, that is to say, to convert it into a healthy vaccine. ~Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852–1934), Coffee Talk: Thoughts, Anecdotes, and Confidences, 1920, quotation translated from the Spanish by Terri Guillemets

Their affair went two months undetected. It is not difficult to deceive the first time, for the deceived possesses no antibodies; unvaccinated by suspicion, she overlooks lateness, accepts absurd excuses, permits the flimsiest patching to repair great rents in the quotidian. ~John Updike, "Applesmiths and Other Games," Couples, 1968

The small pox, so fatal, and so general amongst us, is here entirely harmless, by the invention of engrafting, which is the term they give it. There is a set of old women, who make it their business to perform the operation, every autumn, in the month of September, when the great heat is abated. People send to one another to know if any of their family has a mind to have the small-pox; they make parties for this purpose, and when they are met... the old woman comes with a nut-shell full of the matter of the best sort of small-pox, and asks what veins you please to have open'd. She immediately rips open that, you offer to her, with a large needle (which gives you no more pain than a common scratch) and puts into the vein, as much matter as can lie upon the head of a needle, and after that, binds up the little wound with a hollow bit of shell, and in this manner opens four or five veins. The Grecians have commonly the superstition of opening one in the middle of the forehead, one in each arm, and one on the breast, to mark the sign of the cross; but this has a very ill effect, all these wounds leaving little scars, and is not done by those that are not superstitious, who choose to have them in the legs, or that part of the arm that is concealed. The children of young patients play together all the rest of the day, and are in perfect health to the eighth. Then the fever begins to seize them, and they keep their beds two days, very seldom three. They have very rarely above twenty or thirty in their faces, which never mark, and in eight days time they are as well as before their illness. Where they are wounded, there remains running sores during the distemper, which I don't doubt is a great relief to it. Every year thousands undergo this operation, and the French Ambassador says pleasantly, that they take the small-pox here by way of diversion, as they take the waters in other countries. There is no example of any one that has died in it, and you may believe I am well satisfied of the safety of this experiment, since I intend to try it on my dear little son. I am patriot enough to take pains to bring this useful invention into fashion in England, and I should not fail to write to some of our Doctors very particularly about it, if I knew any one of them that I thought had virtue enough to destroy such a considerable branch of their revenue, for the good of mankind. ~Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, letter, 1717

In our own day, a similar fate awaited the beneficent discovery of Dr. Jenner. That vaccination could abate the virulence of, or preserve from, the smallpox, was quite incredible; none but a cheat and a quack could assert it: but that the introduction of the vaccine matter into the human frame could endow men with the qualities of a cow, was quite probable. Many of the poorer people actually dreaded that their children would grow hairy and horned as cattle, if they suffered them to be vaccinated. ~Charles Mackay, "The Love of the Marvellous and the Disbelief of the True," Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions, 1841

Doctor Jaume Ferrán y Clúa believed that he had found a culture which immunized man against the virulent cholera microbe. As ever, there appeared in the debate that insuperable dualism of old and young, of the conservatives and the lovers of novelty. In the eyes of the first, the vaccine was a deplorable scientific error, if not a money-making scheme of the worst kind; the second waxed enthusiastic over the initiative of Ferrán, whose talents and industry they exalted to the clouds. ~Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852–1934), "The Story of My Scientific Work," Recollections of My Life, translated from the third Spanish edition by E. Horne Craigie and Juan Cano, 1936  [a little altered —tg]

I have recieved the copy of the Evidence at large respecting the discovery of the Vaccine inoculation, which you have been pleased to send me, & for which I return you my thanks. having been among the early converts, in this part of the globe, to it’s efficacy, I took an early part in recommending it to my countrymen. I avail myself of this occasion of rendering you my portion of the tribute of gratitude due to you from the whole human family. Medecine has never before produced any single improvement of such utility. Harvey’s discovery of the circulation of the blood was a beautiful addition to our knowledge of the animal economy. but on a review of the practice of medecine before & since that epoch, I do not see any great amelioration which has been derived from that discovery. you have erased from the Calendar of human afflictions one of it’s greatest. yours is the comfortable reflection that mankind can never forget that you have lived. future nations will know by history only that the loathsome smallpox has existed, & by you has been extirpated. Accept the most fervent wishes for your health & happiness, & assurances of the greatest respect & consideration. ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to George C. Jenner, a monumental figure in vaccinology, 1806

Probably no event in American history testifies more graphically to public acceptance of scientific methods than the voluntary participation of millions of American families in the 1954 trials of the Salk vaccine. ~Paul Starr, The Social Transformation of American Medicine, 1982

Immunity from disease comes from fresh air, pure water, clean surroundings, an active, useful life, and kind thoughts... We must learn to rely on ourselves, and not put either our souls or our bodies in jeopardy by turning them over to... a hirsute gent who will give you a disease for fifty cents, in the interest of happiness, health and long life. ~Elbert Hubbard, "Vaccination," 1911

In some regions ignorance and prejudice have opposed the adoption of vaccination, or the carelessness of the authorities has neutralized its good effects. ~Dr. August Hirsch (1817–1894), "Smallpox," Handbook of Geographical and Historical Pathology: Acute Infective Diseases, translated from the second German edition by Charles Creighton, M.D., 1881  [a little altered —tg]

The supervision of vaccination by the State, even in those countries where it was carried out according to law, had not been, and even still in part is not, administered with the energy that can alone make the guarantee perfect. It has become clear that this guarantee can be secured only where the indifference and prejudice of the public, often led astray by false prophets, is met by compulsory vaccination, and only where this important matter is not left to police edicts or to administrative orders, but is regulated by statute. ~Dr. August Hirsch (1817–1894), "Smallpox," Handbook of Geographical and Historical Pathology: Acute Infective Diseases, translated from the second German edition by Charles Creighton, M.D., 1881

Whereas the Small-pox, at this time in many parts of the Commonwealth is likely to spread and become general, and it hath been proved by incontestible experience that the late discovery's and Improvements therein have produced great Benefits to Mankind, by rendering a Distemper, which taken in the common way is always dangerous and often fatal, comparatively mild and safe by Inoculation, and the Act for regulating the Inoculation of the smallpox having been found, in many Instances, inconvenient and Injurious makes it necessary that the same shou'd be amended: Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, that any person having first obtained in writing to be attested by two Witnesses, the Consent of a Majority of the housekeepers residing within two miles and not separated by a River or Creek half a mile wide and conforming to the following Rules and regulations, may Inoculate or be Inoculated for the small-pox, either in his or her own house, or at any other place. No Patient in the small pox shall remove from the House where He or She shall have the Distemper, or shall go abroad into the Company of any person who hath not before had the small-pox or been Inoculated, or go into any Public Road where Travellers usually pass, without retiring out of the same, or giving notice, upon the Approach of any passenger, until such Patient hath recovered from the Distemper, and hath been so well cleansed in his or her person and Cloths as to be perfectly free from Infection, under the Penalty of forty shillings for every offence... ~Thomas Jefferson, et al., Bill concerning Inoculation for Smallpox, 1777

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published 2020 Oct 7
last saved 2023 Aug 15