Vaccination causes our children to develop neurological dysfunctions, especially autism. Our children receive too many vaccines. We do not want to be forced to be vaccinated. And many more…

Is it, really?

These are the major arguments that anti-vaccine supporters still debate about in the 21st century. We have searched a lot of medical articles for the sake of this issue, and we have observed that the arguments actually remained the same. Even though the vaccines have proven to be necessary and useful since 1796, the date of Jenner’s discovery of a vaccine against smallpox which is the first vaccine recorded, we keep debating about the vaccines. Let’s take a brief look at the history of the anti-vaccine movement and the key issues together.

  • Anti-vaccination is as old as vaccination

Caricature of Edward Jenner inoculating patients in the Smallpox and Inoculation Hospital at St. Pancras. The patients are shown growing cow heads from parts of their anatomy following the vaccination.

After Jenner’s discovery of smallpox vaccination, which was actually produced from cowpox, many criticised the use of this vaccine. Even though smallpox had approximately 30% mortality rate, including the prominent co-discoverer of natural selection, Alfred Russel Wallace, resistance from the individuals against vaccine rose. So the anti-vaccination is as old as vaccination itself and is not likely to disappear. 

In the UK, Vaccination Acts were passed between 1840 and 1853 which made the vaccination compulsory. Cumulative penalties for those who did not obey the act were in order. These acts were, no surprise, met with immediate resistance from individuals who did not agree with the state’s control over their bodies and claimed that these acts wew invasion of personal liberty. Anti-vaccination leagues were formed and anti-vaccination publishings were made in the 1870s and 1880s. Similar movements also were observed across Europe in the decades that followed. 

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis stressing the importance of vaccination due to its indirect protection for the overall community for vaccine-preventable diseases.

A fun fact about smallpox vaccination: today pediatricians recommend the chicken pox vaccine instead of cowpox. Vaccination safety is a highly researched area and we should be able to talk about it without speculations of some under-researched articles.

  • Parental vaccination decisions

Many studies have shown the complexity and multi-dimensionality of parental decisions to use or avoid immunization for their children. Some similar determinants are as follows:

  • contextual determinants (broad influences such as communications and media, religious values, social norms, health policies, etc.)
  • organizational determinants (accessibility and quality of vaccination services)
  • individual determinants (parents’ sociodemographic characteristics)

Rather than a dichotomous ‘pro- versus anti-vaccinations’ perspective, parents have shown that their decisions were on a continuum. They could refuse some vaccines when they could accept some vaccines for their children. This continuum is referred to as vaccine-hesitant parents and they constitute the larger portion among other parents. The importance of patient education is stressed when we observe the rise of the vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaccine movement. It is surveyed in the US that the number of parents who vaccinate their children but who still hesitate about vaccines increase year by year. Parents with strong anti-vaccination sentiments are still a minority according to researchers.

Patient education, or for this case parental education is a major determinant for how this debate could go. FluAI is here to help you make healthy decisions. Don’t forget to check it out.


Dube, E., Vivion, M., & MacDonald, N. (2020). Vaccine hesitancy, vaccine refusal and the anti-vaccine movement: influence, impact and implications. Taylor & Francis. Retrieved 19 October 2020, from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1586/14760584.2015.964212

Anti-Vaccination Movement – Pediatrics – MSD Manual Professional Edition. MSD Manual Professional Edition. (2020). Retrieved 19 October 2020, from https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/childhood-vaccination/anti-vaccination-movement

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Elif Başak Alço

PM & Clinical Team

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