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Evening Star, Issue 7972, 30 July 1889
The anti • vaccinationists found an able spokesman two or three weeks Anti- a S° i Q *be House of Representarnceinntioii. tives. Mr Alfred Saunders, in moving that in the opinion of the Houso the vaccination laws of New Zealand were not adapted to the condition of a country in which smallpox does not exist, and which is completely and widely isolated from any affected community, said that he did not take up the position of a medical man, but simply that of a legislator. It soon became evident, howover, that he accepted most of the objections urged against vaccination as it is at present practised. He admits, of course, that it to a certain f xtent prevents the spread of smallpox ; but he holds with the malcontents that it introduces, or, rather, propagates, a great many other diseases, some of them worse than that against which it is used. He seems also to believe that re-vaccination is practically useless, while it is still more destructive to the general health. Statistics, according to the common saying, will prove anything. Some of those adduced by Mr Saunders are certainly startling, though we suspect the "orthodox" could easily beat him in this game of figures. We had alwayß understood, and that, too, on the ground of statistics, that re-vaccination ensured something like an absolutely certain immunity from the danger of smallpox. Mr Saunders, however, informed the House that in the German Army every recruit is re-vaccinated, and yet that there are 60 per cent, more deaths among the re-vaccinated Boldiers than among civilians; and he added that the same statistics would be found all over—we presume he meant wherever vaccination is practised—showing that re-vaccination has not been successful, and that nothing works so well as the first vaccination. But he has evidently a hankering after tho belief that even the first vaccination is of comparatively little value, in spiteof hisgeneraladmission, quoting a statement to the effect that in an outbreak of the epidemic at Cologno in 1870 the first unvaccinated person attacked was the 174 th in order of time, and in another outbreak at Leignitz the 226 th. This bare statement, however, doeß not prove much, as there may have been very few unvaccinated persons in these places ; and it is well known thatsomo people are not liable to certain diseases,
However, Mr Saunders's chief contention is that the use of " humanised lymph " in vaccination contributes largely to tho spread of all manner of deadly diseases. Why then, he asks, should not calf lymph, and calf lymph alone, be used ? But he goes further, and says that there is no need for vaccinating children in a country like New Zealand. Keep plenty of calf-lymph always in readiness, ho says; that is all that is necessary. Why, at any rate, should we goon propagating disease, and disease of the most shocking and malignant character, by tho use of human lymph? There are of course two sides to every question. Tho supporters of tho existing practice cannot deny that diseases are ever propagated by vaccination, but they assert that this happens much, very much, less frequently than the alarmists allege. They say, moreover, that lymph taken from children is more effectual and less disturbing to tho system than that taken from calves. Vaccination, in a word, has practically abolished smallpox, and the general health at the same time is better than it used to be. Who shall decide when doctors disagree? The balance of argument, statistics, and probability is, we should say, decidedly on tho side of the orthodox. That vaccination prevents the spread of smallpox cannot bo doubted, except by tho fanatically incredulous; and, though some of the more malignant diseases are apparently on the increase, it is, to say the least, very doubtful whether the cause can be traced to the practice of vaccinating with human lymph. Nor should it be forgotten that some of the worst forms of disease—cancer, for instance, to which Mr Saunders particularly referred—are to be found in cattle as well as in human beings. But all this leaves the other question raised by Mr Saunders untouched. Why should the inhabitants of a country like New Zealand vaccinate at all ? There is no smallpox here, and if it should happen to be introduced it would be a very easy matter to vaccinate the affected neighborhood with pure calf lymph, This sounds plausible enough, and wo will not venture to say that the proposal to pursue what might be called a "masterly inactivity" with regard to smallpox is unworthy of consideration, though there is a strong presumption in favor of the present practice. An unvaccinated community, however isolated, or however well provided with calf lywph, might possibly be in infinitely greater danger than Mr Saunders imngines. The experiment, in a word, is perhaps far too hazardous. But a Royal Commission has been appointed to investigate tho vexed question connected with vaccination, and there can be little doubt that the proposal which the member for Lincoln so zealously advocates will also receive duo attention. We may mention that Mr Saunders got most of his facts and arguments from tho article on vaccination in tho l»st edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. This article was written by Dr Creiohton, an almost rabid anti-vaccinationist. Much wonder has been expressed that such a partizan contribution should have been admitted into such a book; and it is now freely stated that it got in by mistake—a statement which is not greatly to the credit of the editor. Dr Creiohton has just published another work on the same subject, entitled ' Jenner on Vaccination : a Strange Chapter of Medical History.' In this book he shows himself to be more rabid than ever. He abuses Jenner, the pupil, friend, and correspondent of John Hunter, as a quack and mountebank, who knew much less about cowpox than some of his medical brethren. Strange that lie should nevertheless have become one of the great benefactors of mankind. Dr Creiohton would, of courso, deny this, but his denial would count for little against the testimony of two or three generations ; nor will hi 3 vilification of a great name help to promote the cause of anti-vaccination. For the fact remains that, whether Jenner was a great scientific genius or not, it is to him, and not to any of his medical brethren, that we owe our immunity from the plague of smallpox.
Evening Star, Issue 7972, 30 July 1889
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