Story at a glance:
- George Washington believed one’s freedom does not mean others should suffer as a consequence.
- While a general, the future first president of the United States led the first mandatory military inoculation for smallpox.
- In the present day, political discourse about how vaccines have unproven and conspiratorial side effects, like autism or swollen testicles, is why some people are not getting vaccination by choice.
George Washington mandated inoculation against smallpox, believing one’s freedom does not mean others should suffer as a consequence.
According to the Library of Congress, in presented in an editorial by the Miami Herald, the eventual first president of the United States led the first mandatory military inoculation.
The inoculation of the Continental Army soldiers was considerably more questionable — back then, soldiers had to volunteer to expose themselves to smallpox, either by scratching it into their arms or inhaling it through their noses, without a guarantee that would be immunity — and some of them died following orders.
“We should have more to dread from it, than from the Sword of the Enemy,” Washington said in regards to the disease.
In modern politics, the concern of public health and safety is sometimes pitted against one’s freedom and the government’s obligation to protect and serve.
While the 18-century mandatory inoculation was risky, it paid off as disease incidence dropped. Thanks to vaccinations, the last natural outbreak of smallpox in the U.S. happened in 1949, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Smallpox was eradicated in the 1980s thanks to the world’s efforts with vaccines, drugs and diagnostic tests.
The American people’s perspective on mandated vaccinations changed by public figures combating misinformation, according to the Herald.
Whether it is Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) or celebrities like Jenny McCarthy during the '90s and 2000s, or recently Nicki Minaj, vaccination hesitancy disguised as free will may cloud some people’s reasoning.
Despite years of evidence that vaccines are effective against measles, mumps and rubella, as well as controlling or eradicating other diseases, conspiracies about how modern medicine is giving people autism or swollen testicles are all one needs to be turned away from getting vaccinated.
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