A Brief History
On February 20, 1905, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that states have the authority to require mandatory vaccinations against disease, well over a century before the controversy over the Covid vaccine in 2020 and 2021.
In the case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts, the court ruled that Massachusetts and other states had the right to enforce compulsory vaccination laws and that individual liberty is not absolute. In this case, the disease involved was smallpox, and the law in the Bay State required people over 21 to be vaccinated or face a $5 fine. The vaccines were free and were in response to an outbreak that occurred in 1902. Another 10 states had enacted similar laws.
The Supreme Court ruling has since been invoked to uphold the police powers of states in many other cases since the ruling, including areas not concerning vaccinations such as anti-abortion laws and health insurance mandates. Another fallout from the ruling was the birth of the anti-vaccination movement, and the founding of the Anti-Vaccination League of America.
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For more information, please see…
Dershowitz, Alan. The Case for Vaccine Mandates. Hot Books, 2021.
Walloch, Karen. The Antivaccine Heresy: Jacobson v. Massachusetts and the Troubled History of Compulsory Vaccination in the United States. University of Rochester Press, 2015.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by James Gathany of components of a smallpox vaccination kit including the diluent, a vial of Dryvax® smallpox vaccine, and a bifurcated needle, is a work of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, taken or made as part of an employee’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.
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