CHAPTER 12: VACCINAL DISEASES IN SOUTH AFRICA.

VACCINATION was made compulsory in Cape colony by Act of the Legislature in 1882. Very soon the deleterious effects of the virus were exhibited. The London Daily News, March 5, 1884, says that owing to impure lymph there had been many cases of illness from vaccination; but, later on, the natives were vaccinated on an extensive scale. The Public Health Act, No. 4, Cape of Good Hope, dated September 6, 1883, contains the provisions of a vaccination law of a stringent and despotic character. Section 60 states—‘No person who has not been vaccinated shall be appointed, or, if appointed prior to the taking effect of this Act, promoted to any office in the public service." Section 60 provides that "Every child, admitted to any school which shall be maintained or aided by any grant from the public funds, shall be vaccinated by the District Surgeon or by a vaccinator specially appointed, unless such child shall have been previously vaccinated." The penalty for non-vaccination is 2. The law contains other oppressive clauses, thus incorporating in one act the worst features of the English, American, and Continental vaccination enactments.

All this time, while the vaccine poison was being forced into the blood of the defenceless natives, laying the foundation for the disorders which speedily followed, nothing was said or done to remove the causes which developed the outbreaks of small-pox, the fearfully insanitary condition of the town in which the pestilence abounded, the fruit of long-continued filth and neglect, scarcity of water, foul, unkempt streets, seas of mud in the winter and hurricanes of dust in summer, and, worst of all, a population ignorant of the commonest instincts of decency.

The Cape Times reported that Cape Town was buying its experience at a heavy price. Within a short time of the introduction of compulsory vaccination, spreading with accelerated industry this tainted virus distilled from the bodies of a filthy population, we read of the spread of leprosy, and of the alarm created in the Colony among those who had observed its destructive progress. A not uncommon experience is to hear of cases of leprosy in families where there is no taint of the disease, and where the afflicted member has never come into contact with lepers. The late American Consul, Mr. James W. Siler, of Cape Town, in his official report to his Government, No. 79, June, 1887, records a case of this description; and, as vaccination is obligatory, the obvious causation is that the disease has been transferred in the vaccine virus. Mr. Suer says :—" A case with which I am well acquainted will illustrate its seemingly mysterious power of propagation. In one of the oldest and wealthiest Dutch families in this Colony the mother is a confirmed leper, of the type described as ‘tubercular’ by Dr. Atherstone, before alluded to. The father and a large family of strong, healthy, grown-up sons and daughters show not the slightest taint. I have several times enjoyed the hospitality of this family, and availed myself of the opportunity thus afforded of inquiring into this melancholy case, with the view of a possible solution. I am assured that neither on the side of the father nor mother a case of leprosy had ever occurred in their families, and they are able to trace their genealogy back at least one hundred years."*

*‘The British Medical Journal, July 5, 1890, under the head of "Reports — Liverpool Workhouse Hospital," communicated by Dr. Cunningham, Senior Medical Officer, gives particulars, with copy of photograph, of an "interesting case." C — L —, aged 46, who has a husband and six children, all of whom are healthy, and, until she became affected with leprosy, had never suffered from any disease. "She has never known or seen anybody with the same or similar disease." The italics are mine.

The conclusions of the Select Committee regarding the increase of leprosy in South Africa* (*Chap. I.; pp. 68 and 69 of this report.) derive confirmation from the individual reports of missionaries, clergy travellers, and district surgeons in South Africa, and this increase is specially observable where vaccination has been extensively practised: Referring to the reports of district surgeons, published at the Colonial Office, Cape Town, and presented to both Houses of Parliament, I find the following relating to leprosy and to syphilis, a. disease, according to various authorities, pathologically allied to leprosy:—

The medical officer for Herbert (Report, 1885), says:—-"During the year, small-pox, syphilis of a particular type, and leprosy, have been the prevailing epidemics. The two last named are still prevailing to an alarming extent." It would appear that vaccination, as usual, was resorted to on account of the smallpox, but the medical officer reports that "the difficulties in carrying out arm—to--arm vaccination seem insurmountable."

Cala.—The District Surgeon (Report, 1885), says:— "About two. years since, there were many cases of swollen arms, and some deaths after vaccination," and observes: "There is also the danger of inoculating syphilis."

Aliwal North (Report, 1885 ).—"Vaccination has been extensively performed amongst both Europeans and natives." In the following year (Report, 1886), the same officer remarks that "small-pox has raged," of which he has treated about 450 cases, and adds that "syphilis has made vast strides." Two years later (Report, 1888), we read :—" Syphilis is still very prevalent. I have frequently drawn the earnest attention of the Government to the sad havoc this disease is dealing amongst the inhabitants."

While showing the utter failure of the extensive vaccination practised in 1884 to prevent the serious epidemic of small-pox which occurred the following year, these three official reports show how the most loathsome of diseases are disseminated by the vaccinator’s lancet. The District Surgeon urges the Government to appoint a Commission of Inquiry.

Alexandria (Report, 1887).—" Leprosy is certainly spreading rapidly." In 1890, the District Surgeon reports that the state of leprosy demands urgent attention.

Port Elizabeth.—The medical officer says (1887):— "There is a growing aversion to it (vaccination), partly due to an underlying current of belief in the possibility of obnoxious disease being propagated by it." The Report for 1891 states that during the year the presence of leprosy was gone into, and six cases reported to the Government.

Caledon.—The District Surgeon reports (1888) that he has vaccinated close upon 800. There are about twelve cases of leprosy in the district, and it appears that syphilis is so increasingly prevalent that an hospital is needed for syphilitic patients.

Cape-Wynberg.—(Reports, 1887-8). The medical officer says:—"Of the great increase of leprosy there can be no doubt; it is obvious to the casual observer that Europeans as well as natives are afflicted with it. . . . The number of cases vaccinated has been about 100." The following year (1889), the District Surgeon says :—" Leprosy is becoming far more frequent in the neighbourhood" . . and adds :—" The question of leprosy is one of the most serious the Government have to deal with. . . . Vaccination has been thoroughly carried out throughout the district."

Malmesbury (Report, 1888).—" Leprosy is slowly but surely gaining ground." This officer reports that he does not think it advisable to vaccinate in the district.

Cradock (Report, 1887).—" Fifteen cases of leprosy have occurred, all in an early stage."

Paarl (Report, 1887).—" Leprosy is on the increase." Report, 1890.—" Leprosy is spreading."

Glen Grey (Report, 1889).—The District Surgeon says:—" I have incidentally about a dozen cases of leprosy, some of these of quite recent origin." . . . "A centrallysituated leper hospital is imperatively required."

Kokstad (Report, 1886).—" Vaccination during the past year has been in several districts well carried out." Two years later (Report, 1888).—The Medical Officer for this district writes as follows :—" Leprosy is still very much on the increase. There are at least fifty cases in Kokstad itself." . . . "It is deplorable to see these wretched victims dependent on the public charity for a bite, whilst the Government will do nothing for their alleviation."

Stellenbosch.—The District Surgeon (Report, 1889) remarks that he has just vaccinated two hundred children. He reports 20 cases of syphilis and six cases. of leprosy. In 1890 the same officer returns nine cases of leprosy, and adds "but no doubt there are a few more unknown to me."

Stockenstrom.—Referring to leprosy (Report, 1890) "I have seen persons without hands paying their quit rents, holding the money on the stumps of their arms."

Somerset East (Report, 1890).—" We have a good few lepers here, as already reported."

One experienced district surgeon told me that he had, again and again, year after year, called the attention of’ the Board of Health to proofs of this terrible havoc wrought by arm-to-arm vaccination, and had advocated its suppression in the interests of public health. A careful examination of the official documents would show that the facts incriminating vaccination have not been allowed to appear.

When making inquiries regarding etiology and spread of leprosy in South Africa, I was generally referred to the Rev. Canon Baker, of Kalk Bay, Cape Colony, as a high authority on the subject, and one who had probably devoted more attention to it than any other resident in the Colony. Canon Baker had in 1883 given evidence before the Select Committee of the House of Assembly,, Cape Town, and presented a statement of his views, which appeared in Appendix A, pp. 1-9. Since then he has continued his investigations and accumulated a considerable body of facts bearing on the subject. Vaccination, he says, is carried out in the Colonies in a most careless and perfunctory manner. He has seen the operator pass his lancet from one arm to another without the smallest attempt to disinfect the instrument or discriminate between the diseased and the healthy, in districts where both leprosy and syphilis are endemic. From other reliable sources I am satisfied that this is the rule rather than the exception. Canon Baker believes that leprosy is chiefly communicated by means of inoculation, and that arm-to-arm vaccination is a prolific cause of the spread of this fearful plague in South Africa.

The Colony of Natal passed Vaccination Law No. 3 in 1882, and Law No. to in 1885. Penalties for non-vaccination 5. In a communication from Archdeacon Colley, dated Natal, August 25, 1885, I learn that hundreds of summonses were issued in vain upon the colonists, but the natives were vaccinated by thousands; one operator would get through two hundred a day.

While the vaccination laws for several years have not been enforced against the white population in Natal, all the natives are vaccinated either under persuasion or threats, the operation being carried out in the usual careless manner, with arm-to-arm virus taken from native children without previous examination, and not the slightest attempt is made to clean or disinfect the lancets after each operation. Hundreds of natives, as I am informed on unimpeachable authority, have died of blood-poisoning and of inoculated diseases.

A member of the Legislative Council,Sir John Bisset, reported in Parliament that many were "blood poisoned, presenting a horrible sight, and dying masses of corruption." In January, 1891, leprosy disseminated in this way was discovered in fifty kraals in one electoral division alone. The natives in their simplicity submit to vaccination, being told that it was the "Incosi" (King) that ordered it, and this was the way the white man secured himself against the plague of small-pox.

As the Government of Natal does not publish reports from the District Surgeons, and appears to be indifferent as to the suffering and mischief caused by the vaccinators, I found it difficult to obtain further details.

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