Catalogue number: L-ARW-25
Booklet by Wallace called Registration Statistics and Vaccination, used to lobby the government, dated 1885.
This booklet, Registration Statistics and Vaccination, was written by Wallace and published in 1885. He distributed copies to lobby members of parliament to consider changing the law that meant vaccination for smallpox was compulsory.
The first page sums up Wallace's views: 'To members of
parliament and others.
Forty-five years of Registration Statistics, proving Vaccination to be both useless and dangerous'.
Wallace was one of the first scientists to use statistics to support his arguments and presented the data in a manageable way. Facing page 5 of the booklet is a pullout graph showing deaths caused by smallpox, typhoid and 'other zymotic diseases except cholera' (scarlet fever, diphtheria, measles, whooping cough, typhoid and other fevers and diarrhoea).
Looking at the graph and the smallpox line at the bottom, it indeed suggests there was little reduction in death rate after vaccinations became compulsory. In the 'penal' section, that is when it became an offence not to have the vaccination, there is a peak 1871 when deaths in London reached 2,420 per million. Wallace points this out to his readers: 'The first thing clearly apparent in this diagram, is the very small diminution of Small-pox corresponding with the epochs of penal and compulsory vaccination; while the epidemic of 1871 was the most destructive in the whole period...' He goes on to give more evidence and says that 'vaccination [is] itself a cause of disease and death...'
Wallace felt so strongly that he concluded the booklet with this paragraph: 'We, therefore, solemnly urge upon you the immediate repeal of the iniquitous penal laws by which you have forced upon us a dangerous and useless operation - an operation which has admittedly caused many deaths, which is probably the cause of greater mortality than small-pox itself, but which cannot be proved to have ever saved a single human life.'
Wallace himself had been vaccinated as a child, but he could not ignore the evidence he found against it. It is probable that crude vaccination methods and poor hygiene accounted for deaths related to vaccination, rather than the vaccine itself.
Wallace's battle against compulsory vaccination was to be a long one. In 1890 he gave a presentation to the Royal Commission; however, the statistics were not fully understood by the board.
By 1898 the 'conscience-clause' was included in the Vaccination Act, which allowed parents to choose whether their children were vaccinated. This was after Wallace produced a second booklet: Vaccination a Delusion: Its Penal Enforcement a Crime, Proved by the Official Evidence in the Reports of the Royal Commission.
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View high resolution scans and transcripts of Alfred Russel Wallace's correspondence, including all surviving letters between him and Charles Darwin.