Boston, Smallpox, Boston Globe discussed on MSNBC Rachel Maddow (audio)


The show we had nine minutes during on msnbc. Rachel is on a much deserved vacation. Well this was the announcement in the newspaper. Two days after christmas in nineteen one under an all caps headline vaccination in boston quote notwithstanding the fact that some four hundred thousand people have been vaccinated in boston since january. The first the board of health ordered that all the inhabitants of this city be vaccinated vaccinated with the board explains that although there has been a most remarkable cooperation throughout the city the medical profession and the people in general having acquiesced to a most remarkable extent in its request for vaccination. It is necessary. In order to stamp out the smallpox epidemic that all persons not protected by vaccination or re vaccination shall be vaccinated and quote. Now this is about the deadly boston. Smallpox epidemic of one thousand nine hundred one. Kill hundreds of people. It would also turn out to be boston's very last smallpox outbreak. Because of cases kept climbing. Despite pretty high vaccination rates the health department mandated that everyone in boston get a vaccine. Doctors went door to door with vaccines. Look at this amazing illustration from the boston globe. This is january twenty eighth nineteen o two so about a month. After the health department announced the mandate quote about about ten thousand vaccinated in south boston board of health had one hundred fifteen physicians at work and below. That it illustrates what each of these doctors carried with cotton alcohol and several boxes of vaccine points. The box is probably look something like this. Smallpox vaccine was administered at the time using a point made ivory or bone with a little bit of the virus on the end. Doctors went house to house vaccinating people as illustrated by the boston globe. Here's one woman. Getting the vaccine surrounded by her small children the caption reads protecting mama. Anyone who refused vaccine would be fine five dollars equivalent to about one hundred and fifty dollars today and you see part of the headline on that illustration. The board of health quote intends to bring those who refuse into court. That's exactly what ended up happening. A local pastor named henning jacobson refuse to be vaccinated. He refused to pay the five dollar fine. He took his case all the way to the supreme court of the united states and he lost in its opinion. The supreme court wrote quote. There is of course a sphere. Within which the individual may cert- the supremacy of his own will and rightfully dispute the authority of any human government especially of any free government existing under a written constitution. But it is equally true. That in every well ordered society charged with the duty of conserving. The safety of its members. The rights of the individual and respect to his liberty may at times under the pressure of great dangers be subjected to such restraint to be enforced by reasonable regulations. As the safety of the general public may demand. Well the boston. Smallpox epidemic produced a vital legal precedent. About what the government is allowed to do in the name of public health and also the vaccine mandate in boston worked. You can see from this chart that smallpox cases in boston peaked. In december of one thousand nine hundred one at the end of that month the health department announced the vaccine mandated from their cases came steadily down from their peak until the very last. Few cases were documented in the spring of one thousand. Nine hundred three now. It bears mentioning boston's response to the smallpox epidemic and the supreme court ruling upholding it. We're far from perfect public. Health authorities in boston for instance vaccinated people forcibly in some cases especially an emigrant in disadvantaged communities and there had to be further judicial intervention to clarify. That was not acceptable. The supreme court decision upholding public health mandates was later used to defend things like four sterilization. Medical ethics in american law are always evolving. And hopefully we get better at this stuff over time. I mean just to be clear no matter what. Your uncle who watches fox news is telling you. No one from the federal government is coming to your house to force a covert vaccine onto you or into you but the fundamental lesson of that box boston. Smallpox epidemic still stands both in american law and in our general sense of what we owe to each other as members of a shared society. The government can take reasonable steps to require people to get vaccinated against the virus that threatens the health and safety of our fellow citizens today. President about biden announced that all federal workers and contractors will be required to get a kobe vaccine or they will have to undergo regular testing wear masks at all times socially distance and be prohibited from traveling for work by also said that the defense department the world's largest employer will look.

Coming up next