Last week we took a look at the anti-vaccine movement in the 18th century and discussed parental decisions about the vaccines. Now it is time to get closer to this century. 

  • The golden age of vaccine acceptance

In the 1950s and 1960s parents widely accepted the vaccination procedures, although opposition still existed. After the acceptance of conscience clause which meant the compulsory means of vaccination were outlawed the so-called ‘golden age of vaccine acceptance’ took over. The vaccination of children rate was up to 90% by 1990 with the Expanded Programme on Immunization. Surely, the golden age did not last long.

  • Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children

The resurgence of the anti-vaccination movement was in the mid-1970s. The report from the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London alleged 36 children suffered from serious neurological conditions following their DPT vaccination. (DPT- or DTP vaccination is a class of combination vaccines against three infectious diseases in humans: diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), and tetanus. The ‘P’ of the vaccine [pertussis] was thought to cause those conditions.])

In 1974 an association of parents of vaccine damaged children was established and it played a key role in the anti-vaccination movements in the UK. The rate of DTP vaccination dropped from 77 to 33% by 1977. As expected, three major epidemics of pertussis followed, which resulted in 100.000 cases and 33 children’s death.

Anti Vaxxer Vaccine published March 1, 2019 in politicalcartoons.com by Dave Whamond.

DTP: Vaccination Roulette

Emmy winning 1982 documentary about DTP vaccination)

While in the USA the controversies about vaccination began with the Emmy winning 1982 documentary called “DTP: Vaccination Roulette”. This documentary alleged the pertussis component of the DTP vaccine was causing severe brain damage, seizures and mental retardation.

In the UK several lawsuits and billings to vaccine manufacturers were in order. This way they managed the immunization system to work. Additionally vaccine researchers did and do try to make the vaccines as safe as possible, although non-vaccination decisions of parents have shown to cause epidemics repeatedly in history.

  • Autism

Andrew Wakefield was a former British surgeon who has been known with his publications proposing a link between measles virus – Crohn’s disease and also measles vaccine – Crohn’s disease. After meeting a patient who was a parent of an autistic child, the possible link between MMR vaccines and autism took his attention (The MMR vaccine is a vaccine against measles, mumps, and rubella [German measles].)

He published a paper with 12 other colleagues in the Lancet. The author claimed that they add ‘identified associated gastrointestinal disease and developmental regression in a group of previously normal children, which was generally associated in time with possible environmental triggers’ (Retracted). 

Even though the paper said that any causal connection was proven, Andrew Wakefield stated in a press conference that MMR vaccines were not safe and called for suspension of the triple MMR vaccine until more research could be done. That was immediately controversial which caused the beginning of a MMR vaccine scare and vaccination rates were dropped. 

Following Wakefield’s statement multiple researches have been conducted which could not find any such connection. 

“In February 2004, after a 4-month investigation, reporter Brian Deer wrote in The Sunday Times of London that, prior to submitting his paper to The Lancet, Wakefield had received £55,000 from legal firms seeking evidence to use against vaccine manufacturers, that several of the parents quoted as saying that MMR had damaged their children were also litigants and that Wakefield did not inform colleagues or medical authorities of the conflict of interest.”

  • What now?

To implement effective strategies we should first have a great understanding about the causes and the contexts of the vaccine hesitancy and refusal. It is a key step to understand each other and also to have a healthy community. You should also check FluAI out to protect yourself from the throat infections. We hope you check the flu vaccines and ask your doctor if you should have a vaccine or note. 


Dubé, E., Vivion, M., & MacDonald, N. E. (2014). Vaccine hesitancy, vaccine refusal and the anti-vaccine movement: influence, impact and implications. Expert Review of Vaccines, 14(1), 99–117. doi:10.1586/14760584.2015.964212  

The Many Faces of Vaccine Hesitancy. Duke Global Health Institute. (2020). Retrieved 27 October 2020, from https://globalhealth.duke.edu/news/many-faces-vaccine-hesitancy.

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Elif Başak Alço

PM & Clinical Team

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