Compulsory smallpox vaccination
[back] Compulsory vaccination

From 1884 to 1901, a period of eighteen years, no commitment  warrants were issued ;  but in 1902 there were six, and in 1904 four—a total of ten in all.   Of these, only two operated,  an these were against  Mr. John H. Bonner, who went to   prison on 25th   March, 1904, on two commitments of seven days each, the terms running  concurrently.    Whether  the  demonstration on the occasion of his release from gaol has deterred the powers that be from arresting any other anti-vaccinator in Leicester since that time may be left for the reader to weigh up in own mind.
    But  what a significant condition of these these facts reveal !    There are actually 51 distress warrants and 8 commitment   warrants—in 59 warrants—not executed, and not even intended to be proceeded with.      What a preposterous farce !     Where vaccination default is concerned the King's Writ does not run in Leicester !
    So it amounts to this :—The Local Government Board has imposed a Vaccination Officer on Guardians; obliged them to   pay his salary ; instructed him to prosecute, independently of contrary to the wishes of the Guardians ; won the legal case where this power was challenged ; again  instructed  the  Vaccination  Officer  to prosecute ; he successfully prosecutes, and defaulters are fined ; the fines remain unpaid ; distress warrants and commitment warrants are issued to terrify  the  recalcitrants ;  the said warrants rest harmlessly in the pigeon-holes of the post offices;   the children remain   unvaccinated; there the matter ends !    What a great and glorious triumph for the Local Government Board ! ! ! The Vaccination Acts are completely ignored, and are virtually repealed here in Leicester.
    Why not repeal them altogether? The fact is, the authorities are heartily sick of the whole business, and would be glad and really delighted to be relieved entirely from the hateful and obnoxious duties imposed upon them by the Vaccination Acts.

In 1853 the Government passed a law making vaccination compulsory.  In 1861 an Act was passed permitting the Guardians or Overseers of any parish to appoint some person to institute and conduct proceedings for enforcing obedience to the compulsory Vaccination Act.   In 1867 a further amending Act was passed, and this Act is now the principal Vaccination Act.
    In Scotland  vaccination  was  made  compulsory  by Act of Parliament in 1863.
    In 1871 another Act was passed appointing a Vaccination Officer, also authorising a defendant to appear in a court of law by any member of his family, or any other person authorised by him. In 1874 an Act was passed explanatory of some parts of the Act of 1871. It declared that the Local Government Board had power to make regulations regarding the duties of Guardians and their officers in regard to the institution and conduct of proceedings.
    In 1898 a new vaccination law was passed, in some respects modifying, but not superseding, previous Acts, giving conditional exemption of conscientious objectors,  and substituting calf lymph for humanised lymph.
    The remarkable thing about this brief summary of legislation is its testimony that, with the exception of the latest enactment, the law not only rests on Jenner's original claim of the value of vaccination, but has been strengthened as Jenner's original claim has weakened.
........The law (By the Act of 1907 it is no longer necessary to satisfy a magistrate ; he simply witnesses the declaration, see appendix.) says that a parent or guardian may get an exemption if he can satisfy two magistrates that he has a conscientious objection ; but practice shows that the magistrates are not easily satisfied. In the Metropolitan area, some of the stipendiaries grant exemptions to every, or almost every applicant, and others refuse almost every applicant. And in the country it frequently occurs that the borough courts grant an exemption and the county bench refuses an exemption. Probably the majority of benches refuse to grant exemptions in most cases. In any case, the usage of the courts makes vaccination practically compulsory on poor people. Take the case of a labourer in a country district. If he wishes to apply for an exemption, he will have to buy a railway ticket, costing, say, 2s. He will have to take with him a copy of the birth certificate of his child, costing, say, 3s. 6d. He must pay the magistrates' clerk's fee, say, 3s. He must lose a day's wage, say, 2s. 6d. ; making a total cost of 11s. How can a poor labourer on 15s. a week afford such a large sum ? And is he likely to make that sacrifice when he knows that there is a strong likelihood of his being refused, when he will come home, without the exemption, having lost 8s. of very hardly earned money ? If a poor man fails to obtain an exemption, and also refuses to have the child vaccinated, he is prosecuted. The magistrates generally inflict the maximum penalty of £1 and costs. This penalty is far beyond the means of these poor men to pay. So the law, as it at present stands, gives exemption to the rich and denies it to the poor.  [1921 Book] Vaccination and the State By Arnold Lupton MP.

HOW TO AVOID VACCINATION.  The Vaccination Act, 1907. Parents, when registering the births of their children, will find on the Vaccination Paper given them a form of declaration of conscientious objection, which they must fill in, in ink. Then the father, not the mother, must take the form to a Commissioner for Oaths, or a Justice of the Peace, or a Stipendiary Magistrate, and make a declaration of conscientious objection before him in the terms of the Form. This Declaration must be made within four months of the birth of the child.    It is useless if made later. The fee for the Declaration is generally 1s. at the Court and 1s. 6d. to a Commissioner.
When the Declaration has been signed by the Magistrate or Commissioner, take or send it immediately by post or otherwise, to your Vaccination Officer. It will be of no use unless he gets it within seven days after its signature by the Commissioner or Magistrate. It is not necessary that application should be made at a Police Court; most solicitors are Commissioners for Oaths, and will take your declaration without questioning you. Some Magistrates will sign the declaration privately, when no fee can be charged. [1921 Book] Vaccination and the State By Arnold Lupton MP.

Vaccination is compulsory in many parts of India. Over 9,000,000 vaccinations were performed in the last year for which we have the records. There are many proofs available to show that it is only the direct and indirect pressure which is put on parents which results in this large number of vaccinations. Indian parents are as much opposed to vaccination as English parents are, and, in some cases, they resort to strong measures to prevent their children being vaccinated. Parents have, in many cases, been fined for the non-vaccination of their children, and in at least one instance a father went to prison for defying the compulsory law. In Bombay, after a struggle lasting for five years, the anti-vaccinists succeeded recently in securing the withdrawal of a proposal on the part of the Bombay Municipal Corporation that re-vaccination should be made compulsory. On the other hand, through Government pressure, vaccination has been made compulsory in Hyderabad (Sind), and in Ahmedabad. In spite of the extension of vaccination, however, small-pox does not show any permanent reduction. In 1908 the ratio of small-pox per million of the population was 754, and in only one year of the previous twenty-three years was such a figure reached, namely, in 1897. Official figures published in Bombay show that a large number of vaccinated children under ten years of age have been attacked by small­pox in that city. [1921 Book] Vaccination and the State By Arnold Lupton MP.

Exemption from Vaccination.
England and Wales.
The following figures indicate the number of children for whom declarations under the Vaccination Act of 1907 have been made. The figures for 1903 are given to shew the effect of the new Act by comparison: 



 Number exempted

 Percentage of births exempted

 Approximate percentage of children available exempted

 Percentage of births vaccinated

1903  948,383 37,675 4 -- 74.5















































































Peebles MD, J. M.