Post contributed by Rachel Ingold, Curator for the History of Medicine Collections.
The history of vaccine hesitancy is nothing new. Pamphlets, magazines, and newspapers from the eighteenth through twenty-first centuries feature opposing views of vaccination. Some profess personal liberty and abhor government intervention (i.e. instituting compulsory vaccination); or claim that potential side effects from vaccines are too risky. Others stress that public health and the well-being of communities against preventable, lethal diseases, should prevail through large-scale, or even mandatory, vaccinations.
Does this sound a bit familiar?
The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library has material, ranging in format and date, that document the long history of vaccine hesitancy. In October 2019, an exhibit Vaccination: 300 Years of Debate was installed in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room. When campus closed in March 2020, so did our exhibit spaces. This exhibit became inaccessible at a time when it was becoming most relevant.
We are now happy to share the online exhibit for Vaccination: 300 Years of Debate. Take a break from current news to view materials that give context to this ongoing, historical debate.