A Brief History of the ‘Antivax’ Movement

It is often assumed that the ‘anti-vax’ movement began with Andrew Wakefield, and ‘that autism study’, or former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy’s claims that her son’s autism was caused by vaccination.

But did these two events really cause tens of thousands of parents to begin questioning vaccines and getting embroiled in bitter skirmishes on social media? Personally, I had never heard of Andrew Wakefield, or Jenny McCarthy, when I first began to delve into the vaccine subject, in early 2010.

Opposition to vaccination is not a new phenomenon – for as long as there have been vaccines, there has been fierce opposition. Originally focused in England, that opposition really gained momentum when the Compulsory Vaccination Act was passed in Victorian England, in 1853.

The main pockets of opposition to compulsory vaccination were among the working class, and the clergy, who believed it was ‘un-Christian’ to inject people with animal products [1].

The original Vaccination Act in 1840 had provided free vaccination for the poor, to be administered by the Poor Law guardians. This law, however, was a failure, as the “lower and uneducated classes” did not take up the offer of free vaccination [1].

The Compulsory Vaccination Act of 1853 went much further – it ordered all babies up to 3 months old be vaccinated (administered by Poor Law Guardians), and in 1867, this was extended up to 14 years of age, and penalties for non-compliance were introduced.

Doctors were encouraged to report non-vaccinators to the authorities, by “financial inducements for compliance and penalties for failure”. While the 1853 Act had introduced one-off fines or imprisonment, the 1867 Act strengthened this to continuous and cumulative penalties, so that parent’s found guilty of default could be fined continuously, with increasing prison sentences, until their child reached 14 years of age [2].

(As an interesting side-note here, the vaccination laws were not the only incursions of the state during this time, at the expense of personal liberty, and private bodily autonomy. The Contagious Diseases Acts of 1864, 1866, and 1869, stated that any woman suspected of prostitution was required to be medically inspected for venereal disease. If found infected, she was to be confined in hospital for treatment, with or without her consent. The Notification of Infectious Diseases Acts in 1889 and 1899 required that all contagious diseases – except tuberculosis, which is curious, since it was a major killer at the time – be reported to the local medical officer, who could then forcibly remove the patient to hospital, whether they consented or not [1].

Meanwhile, the vaccination laws were tightened yet further in 1871 (ironically, the same year that a large smallpox epidemic raged across Europe and England – no doubt testament to how ‘effective’ the compulsory laws had been!), making it compulsory for all local authorities to hire Vaccination Officers [2].

In response to these draconian measures, the Anti-Vaccination League was formed in England, and a number of anti-vaccine journals were started, which “included the Anti-Vaccinator (founded 1869), the National Anti-Compulsory Vaccination Reporter (1874), and the Vaccination Inquirer (1879)”.

Numerous other writings and pamphlets were distributed widely – for example, 200,000 copies of an open letter titled ‘Current Fallacies About Vaccination’, written by Leicester Member of Parliament, P Taylor, were distributed in 1883 [2].

The vaccination process itself was both painful and inconvenient, for parents and children alike. The vaccinator used a lancet (a surgical knife with sharp, double-edged blade) to cut lines into the flesh in a scored pattern. This was usually done in several different places on the arm. Vaccine lymph was then smeared into the cuts. Infants then had to be brought back eight days later, to have the lymph (pus!) harvested from their blisters, which was then used on waiting infants [1].

After the stricter 1871 amendments to the law, parents could also be fined 20 shillings for refusing to allow the pus to be collected from their children’s blisters, to be used for public vaccination [1].

By this time, severe and sometimes fatal reactions to the vaccine were being reported, and doubts began to grow about how effective the vaccine really was [3].

The town of Leicester was a particular hot-bed of anti-vaccine activity, with numerous marches and rallies, demanding for repeal of the law, and advocating other measures of containment, such as isolation of the infected. These rallies attracted up to 100,000 people [4].

The unrest and opposition continued for two decades, and an estimated 6000 prosecutions were carried out, in the town of Leicester alone [3].

The following excerpts from the Leicester Mercury bears witness to the deep convictions held by those who refused to submit to the mandatory measures:

‘George Banford had a child born in 1868. It was vaccinated and after the operation the child was covered with sores, and it was some considerable time before it was able to leave the house. Again Mr. Banford complied with the law in 1870. This child was vaccinated by Dr. Sloane in the belief that by going to him they would get pure matter. In that case erysipelas set in, and the child was on a bed of sickness for some time. In the third case the child was born in 1872, and soon after vaccination erysipelas set in and it took such a bad course that at the expiration of 14 days the child died“.

Mr Banford was fined 10 shillings, with the option of seven days imprisonment, for refusing to subject a fourth child to the vaccine [5].

And again…‘By about 7.30 a goodly number of anti-vaccinators were present, and an escort was formed, preceded by a banner, to accompany a young mother and two men, all of whom had resolved to give themselves up to the police and undergo imprisonment in preference to having their children vaccinated. The utmost sympathy was expressed for the poor woman, who bore up bravely, and although seeming to feel her position expressed her determination to go to prison again and again rather than give her child over to the “tender mercies” of a public vaccinator. The three were attended by a numerous crowd and in Gallowtreegate three hearty cheers were given for them, which were renewed with increased vigour as they entered the doors of the police cells [6]”.

Eventually, there were so many vaccine refusers in the town of Leicester, that some local magistrates and politicians declared their support for parental rights, and encouraged their peers to do the same [3].

The law was finally relaxed in 1898, when new laws were passed, that allowed for conscientious objection to vaccination [7]. By the end of that same year, more than 200,000 certificates of conscientious objection had been issued, most among the working class, and many were women. [1]

Meanwhile in the United States, smallpox outbreaks in the late 1800’s led to vaccine campaigns, and subsequent opposition in the formation of The Anti-Vaccination Society of America in 1879, followed by the New England Anti Compulsory Vaccination League in 1882, and the Anti Vaccination League of New York City in 1885 [4].

The homeless and the itinerate were blamed for spreading smallpox, and in 1901, the Boston Board of Health ordered ‘virus squads’ to vaccinate men staying in cheap boarding rooms – by force [8].

Following a smallpox outbreak in 1902, the Cambridge Board of Health in Massachusetts mandated vaccination for all city residents. This led to possibly the most important, and controversial, judicial decision regarding public health.

One man, Henning Jacobson refused to comply with the mandate, on the grounds that it violated his right to care for his own body as he saw fit. The city filed criminal charges against him, which he fought, and lost, in court. He then appealed to the US Supreme Court, which ruled in the State’s favour in 1905, giving priority to public health over individual liberty [9].

The ‘anti-vaxxers’ have never really gone away in the intervening years, although sometimes they have been more vocal than others, such as in the 1970’s, when there was controversy throughout Europe, North America and Britain, about the safety and possible side effects of the diptheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine [10].

In 1998, the vaccination argument again came to the forefront, with Andrew Wakefield’s case series published in the Lancet. Although the report was looking at a link between autistic disorders and bowel dysfunction, it mentioned in its conclusion that a number of parents believed their child’s symptoms began after MMR vaccination [11]. The authors felt this potential link deserved more investigation…

The furore and the fall-out are still ongoing. Wakefield was found guilty of failing to get proper ethics approval for the study, and he and a fellow investigator were subsequently ‘struck off’. Wakefield’s fellow investigator later challenged the decision, and won [12]. And while a number of researchers later confirmed the original findings, of bowel dysfunction in autistic children [13-16], Wakefield’s reputation and career have been left in tatters – the subject of mockery and derision.

Anybody who confesses to have doubts about the safety of efficacy of vaccines, as a general rule, get a taste of the same scorn and derision that Andrew Wakefield has received.

Even in the era of smallpox vaccination, the media tended to portray anti-vaxxers in a less-than-flattering light. At the time, the media referred to the debate as a “conflict between intelligence and ignorance, civilization and barbarism [9].

So, are anti-vaxxers really anti-science?

Not so, says…science.

In 2007, Kim et al analysed vaccination records of 11,680 children from 19 – 35 months of age, to evaluate maternal characteristics that might influence whether the child was fully vaccinated, or not.

They found that mothers with tertiary degrees and high incomes were the least likely to fully vaccinate their children, while mothers in poor minority families without high school diplomas were the most likely to fully vaccinate their children [17].

Similarly, a study in 2008 that investigated the attitudes and beliefs of parents who decided to opt out of childhood vaccine mandates, found that they valued scientific knowledge, were adept at collecting and processing information on vaccines, and had little trust in the medical community [18].

In 2017, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released their latest figures on vaccination rates. The national average was 93% of children fully vaccinated, yet in Sydney’s upmarket (ie. Highly educated, high income-earning professionals) inner suburbs and northern beaches, as few as 70% of children under 5 were fully vaccinated [19].

The same story was repeated in Melbourne, with the wealthiest – and by association, better educated – suburbs having the lowest vaccination rates. There was an ironic, and rather telling, opening paragraph in The Age, when reporting these figures: “Four of the wealthiest, healthiest suburbs of Melbourne have the worst child vaccination rates in the state [20]

(It does beg the question: Were they not vaccinated because they were healthy…or were they healthy because they were not vaccinated?)

Statistics gathered from Canada tell a similar story – a higher percentage of anti-vaxxers held a university degree, compared to the national average [21].

It seems that doctors and paediatric specialists are not always in agreement with current vaccine practice either – at least, not when it comes to their own children:  “Ten percent of paediatricians and 21% of paediatric specialists claim they would not follow [CDC] recommendations for future progeny. Despite their education, physicians in this study expressed concern over the safety of vaccines [22]”.

With the vaccine schedule becoming increasingly crowded, and governments moving ever towards compulsory vaccination, the anti-vaccination movement is again gathering momentum. Increasing numbers of parents are delaying, declining, or opting for alternative vaccine schedules [23-24].

Around the world, as vaccine scepticism is on the rise, history looks set to repeat, as governments are becoming increasingly more forceful in trying to curb the sentiment. Only time will tell how this round will play out…


[1] Durbach, N. They might as well brand us: Working class resistance to compulsory vaccination in Victorian England. The Society for the Social History of Medicine, 2000, 13:45-62.

[2] Porter D, Porter R. The politics of prevention: anti-vaccinationism and public health in nineteenth-century England. Med Hist. 1988;32(3):231-52.

[3] Williamson S. Anti-vaccination leagues: One hundred years ago, Arch Dis Child, 1984, 59: 1195-1196.

[4] Wolfe, R.M., Sharpe, L.K. Anti-vaccinationists past and present. BMJ. 2002d;325:430-432.

[5] Leicester Mercury, 10th March, 1884.

[6] Leicester Mercury, 10th June, 1884.

[7] Wohl A. Endangered Lives: Public Health in Victorian Britain, 1984, Methuen, London, pp. 134-135.

[8] ] Albert, M., Ostheimer, K.G., Breman, J.G. The last smallpox epidemic in Boston and the vaccination controversy. N Engl J Med. 2001;344: 375-379.

[9] Gostin, L. Jacobson vs. Massachusetts at 100 years: Police powers and civil liberties in tensionAJPH. 2005;95:576-581.

[10] Baker, J. The pertussis vaccine controversy in Great Britain, 1974-1986. Vaccine. 2003;21:4003-4011.

[11] Wakefield AJ, Murch SH, Anthony A, et al. Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive development disorder in children, Lancet, 1998, 3519103): 637-641.

[12] Professor John Walker Smith vs General Medical Council [2012] EWHC 503, http://www.eastwoodslaw.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Walker-Smith.pdf. Accessed September, 2017.

[13] Horvath K, Medeiros L, Rabszlyn A, et al. High prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms in children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2000, 31:S174.

[14] Horvath K and Perman JA. Autistic disorder and gastrointestinal disease, Current Opinion in Pediatrics 2002, 14:583-587

[15] Ashwood P, Anthony A, Torrente F, Wakefield AJ. Spontaneous mucosal lymphocyte cytokine profiles in children with regressive autism and gastrointestinal symptoms: Mucosal immune activation and reduced counter regulatory interleukin-10. Journal of Clinical Immunology. 2004:24:664-673.

[16] Torrente F, Anthony A, Heuschkel RB, et al. Focal-enhanced gastritis in regressive autism with features distinct from Crohn’s and helicobacter pylori gastritis. Am. J Gastroenterol. 2004;4:598-605.

[17] Kim SS, Frimpong JA, et al. Effects of maternal and provider characteristics on up-to-date immunization status of children aged 19-35 months. Am J Public Health, 2007, 97(2): 259-266.

[18] Gullion JS, Henry L, Gullion G. Deciding to opt out of childhood vaccination mandates. Public Health Nurs, 2008, 25(5): 401-408.

[19] Aubusson K, Butt C, Sydney postcode has Australia’s worst vaccination rate for five year old children, Sydney Morning Herald, 8th June, 2017.

[20] Butt C, Spooner R, Melbourne vaccination data: immunisation rates not improving in wealthy inner-city suburbs, The Age, 7th June, 2017.

[21] Chai C, Who are the anti-vaxxers in Canada? New poll profiles resistant group, Global News, 9th March, 2015.

[22] Martin, M. and Badalyan, V, Vaccination practices among physicians and their children. Open Journal of Pediatrics, 2012, 2:228-235.

[23] McCauley MM, Kennedy A, Basket M, Sheedy K. Exploring the choice to refuse or delay vaccines: a national survey of parents of 6- through 23-month olds, Acad Pediatr, 2012, 125): 375-383.

[24] Robison SG, Groom H, Young C. Frequency of alternative immunization schedule use in a metropolitan area, Pediatrics, 2012, 1301): 31-38.

7 Reasons Why Antibodies Can’t Possibly Provide Immunity

There is a massive vaccine industry that rakes in billions in profits, based on the belief that if you have antibodies, you are ‘protected’. Here’s 7 reasons why that belief needs a re-think…


There are numerous cases in the scientific literature, of people succumbing to illness, even though they had high antibody counts [1-3]. In fact, some of those had antibody titres 100x higher than what is considered sufficient to provide ‘immunity’. On the other hand, there are people with little to no antibody counts (and supposedly susceptible) passing through disease outbreaks completely untouched [4].

Actually, the discovery that antibodies are not responsible for immunity was made more than 80 years ago, by immunologist Dr. Merrill Chase, and his discovery was largely ignored by mainstream medicine, despite a long and illustrious career, and publishing more than 150 research papers [5].


According to vaccine logic, the more antibodies you have, the better, but in a NORMALLY functioning immune system, antibody production is tightly restricted (for good reason – more on that later). It’s now common knowledge that Vitamin D is necessary for a healthy immune system…but did you know Vitamin D LIMITS antibody production [6]? It begs the question why, if antibodies really are as vital as we have been led to believe…


The presence of prior antibodies has been found to ENHANCE some diseases. It’s called ‘antibody-dependant enhancement’ and, so far, it has been demonstrated to enhance dengue fever, zika virus, HIV, Ebola, and others [7-12].


Antibodies are created in the body as a last resort. It only occurs AFTER the cells have become infected. Remember the selling point of vaccines – about having a ‘primed’ immune system, so that antibodies could respond faster? Well, technically that’s true, but they neglected to mention that, even in a ‘primed’ immune system, antibodies are STILL not called into action, until after infection occurs [13]. Therefore, it’s a biological impossibility for antibodies to prevent infection, even in a ‘primed’ immune system.


By now, you may be wondering why the human body is designed to limit, restrict or delay antibody production. There’s a good reason for this – because antibodies are highly inflammatory and uncomfortable. Those unpleasant symptoms that you experience when ‘sick’ are not symptoms of disease, they are the result of antibodies. Antibodies place a large burden on the body’s excretory systems and, if not excreted in a timely manner, they conglomerate and form ‘antibody complexes’, which are rather large and tend to get stuck in the soft tissues and joints, causing inflammation and tissue damage [14]. If you get ‘arthritis’ after a vaccine or illness, now you know why! Antibodies!


True immunity requires a robust innate immune system (also known as Th1 immunity). This is the very first line of defence. As already mentioned, vaccines target antibody production, which is part of the humoral immune system (also known as Th2 immunity) – and the last function called into play by the immune system.

We can look upon these two arms of the immune system (innate and humoral) as being antagonistic – when one is dominant, the other is suppressed. So, a dominant antibody response (caused/exacerbated by repeat vaccinations), means that the innate immune system (first line of defence) is suppressed, leaving you more vulnerable to infection [15].

It should be noted here, that the disease known as ‘AIDS’ is characterised by this very same thing – high antibody counts, and poor function of the innate immune system [16]

Also of note – studies have shown that cancer and autism patients have this particular immune imbalance – high antibody counts and suppressed innate immunity [17-20].


Antibodies are extracellular, meaning that they are active outside the cells, but cannot actually enter cells…although scientists are trying to genetically engineer antibodies that will do just that [21].

Now, this is quite a conundrum, because antibodies are not called into action until after a pathogen has entered the cells, and antibodies can only bind to antigens on the surface of the cell (NOT inside the cell).

Now you have to rely on T-cells to orchestrate the killing of infected cells, in order to stop the spread of infection – this is the realm of the innate immune system (the one that is suppressed by repeated vaccinations, remember?). Such is the natural sequence of events when a th1-type response is generated, such as seen in natural infection [22].

The natural Th-1 type response is to eliminate infection via externalising it – this is the classic disease symptoms we know so well, such as rash, fever, cough, mucus, swelling etc [23]. Th2 dominance inhibits this natural response, which inevitably must lead to either:

  • altered disease manifestation, so for example, the vaccinated person who has whooping cough, may have a cough, but without the tell-tale ‘whoop’ sound [24].
  • chronic underlying infection, inflammation or auto-immune disease [25-26].

Let’s just re-emphasize that last point, because it’s really important, and once understood, you’ll never again look at vaccines the same way again…

First: Vaccines are designed to stimulate antibody production (Th2 immune system).

Second: Antibodies cannot stop infection, nor can they enter cells that are infected.

Third: Due to immune imbalance caused by vaccination, infected cells harbour infection chronically, causing inflammation and auto-immune conditions.

Fourth: person shows only mild or no signs of acute illness, but becomes progressively burdened down by chronic health issues.

So, what actually happens is that the vaccine has not prevented infection, it has simply prevented the body from expelling the infection.

It goes without saying, that such a state of affairs does wonders for the vaccine ‘efficacy’ statistics, since the vaccinated are less likely to show overt signs of acute disease, and therefore, less likely to be diagnosed, or even tested – meanwhile, chronic ‘non-communicable’ diseases continue to spiral out of control…

Now you know why.


[1] Crone NE, Reder AT. Severe tetanus in immunized patients with high anti-tetanus titers, Neurology, 1992, 42(4): 761-764.

[2] Maselle SY, Matre R, Mbise R, Hofstad T. Neonatal tetanus despite protective serum antitoxin concentration, FEMS Microbiol Immunol, 1991, 3(3): 171-175.

[3] Pitisuttithum P, Gilbert P, Gurwith M, et al. Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled efficacy trial of a bivalent recombinant glycoprotein 120 HIV-1 vaccine among injection drug users in Bangkok, Thailand. J Infect Dis, 2006, 194(12):1661-1761.

[4] Brodie M, Park W. Active Immunization Against Poliomyelitis, Am J Pub Health, 1936, 26:119–125.

[5] O’Connor A, Merrill W Chase, 98, Scientist Who Advanced Immunology, New York Times, Jan 22, 2004. https://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/22/nyregion/merrill-w-chase-98-scientist-who-advanced-immunology.html. Accessed October, 2018.

[6] Røsjø, E., Lossius, A., Abdelmagid, N., Lindstrøm, J. C., Kampman, M. T., Jørgensen, L., … Holmøy, T. (2017). Effect of high-dose vitamin D3 supplementation on antibody responses against Epstein–Barr virus in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis Journal, 23(3), 395–402.

[7] Halstead SB, O’Rourke EJ. Antibody-enhanced dengue virus infection in primate leukocytes, Nature, 1977, 265(5596):739-741.

[8] ] Dejnirattisai W, Jumnainsong A, Onsirisakul N, et al. Cross-reacting antibodies enhance dengue virus infection in humans, Science, 2010, 328(5979):745-748.

[9] Dejnirattisai W, Supasa P, Wongwiwat W, et al. Dengue virus sero-cross-reactivity drives antibody-dependent  enhancement of infection with zika virus, Nat Immunol, 2016, 17(9):1102-1108.

[10] Homsy J, Meyer M, Tateno M, et al. The fc and not CD4 receptor mediates antibody enhancement of HIV infection in human cells, Science, 1989, 244(4910):1357+.

[11] Furuyama W, Marzi A, Carmody AB, et al. Fcy-receptor Ila-mediated Src signaling pathway is essential for the antibody-dependent enhancement of ebola virus infection, PLoS Pathogen, 2016, 12(12):e1006139.

[12] Biryukov S, Angov E, Landmesser ME, et al. Complement and antibody-mediated enhancement of red blood cell invasion and growth of malaria parasites, EBioMedicine, 2016, 9:207-216.

[13] Janeway CA Jr, Travers P, Walport M, et al. Immunobiology: The Immune System in Health and Disease. 5th edition. New York: Garland Science; 2001

[14] Cochrane CG, Dixon FJ. Cell and tissue damage through antigen-antibody complexes. Calif Med. 1969;111(2):99-112.

[15] Brad Spellberg, John E. Edwards; Type 1/Type 2 Immunity in Infectious Diseases, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 32, Issue 1, 1 January 2001, Pages 76–102.

[16] Kaur R, Dhakad MS, Goyal R, Bhalla P, Dewan R (2016) Study of TH1/TH2 Cytokine Profiles in HIV/AIDS Patients in a Tertiary Care Hospital in India. J Med Microb Diagn 5:214

[17] Sato M, Goto S, Kaneko R, et al. Impaired production of Th1 cytokines and increased frequency of Th2 subsets in pBMC from advanced cancer patients. Anticancer Res, 1998, 18:3951-3955.

[18] Huang M, Wang J, Lee p, et al. Human non-small cell lung cancer cells express a type 2 cytokine pattern. Cancer Res, 1995, 55:3847-3853.

[19] Filella X, Alcover J, Zarco MA, et al. Analysis of type T1 and T2 cytokines in patients with prostate cancer, prostate, 2000, 44:271-274.

[20] Gupta, S., Aggarwal, S., Rashanravan, B., Lee, T., TH1 and TH2-like cytokines in CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in autism, J of Neuroimmunol, 1998; 85:106-109.

[21] Coghlan A. Super-antibodies break the cell barrier, New Scientist, https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn4881-super-antibodies-break-the-cell-barrier/. Accessed December 2018.

[22] Kim EJ, Cho D, Kim TS. Efficient induction of T helper type 1-mediated immune responses in antigen-primed mice by anti-CD3 single-chain Fv/interleukin-18 fusion DNA, Immunology, 2004, 111(1): 27–34.

[23] Abbas AK, Murphy KM, Sher A. Functional diversity of helper T lymphocytes, Nature, 1996, 383(6603):787-93.

[24] Nelson KE, Williams C. Infectious Disease Epidemiology: Theory and practice 2007), Jones and Bartlett Learning, pp 131.

[25] Hayflick, L. Slow Viruses, Executive Health Report, Feb. 1981, pp 4.

[26] Talai, N., “Autoimmunity,” in Fudenberg, Basic Clinical Immunology, 3rd Ed., Lange, 1980, p. 222.