Monday, May 6, 2024

A look at the anti-vaxxers who fueled Montreal's smallpox epidemic in 1885


Vaccination, in Ross’s mind, was poisonous. He wanted everyone to know it too. Besides papering the city of Montreal with antivaccination posters and pamphlets, writing letters to newspapers and professional journals, and founding a magazine called the Anti-Vaccinator, he formed the Canadian Anti-Vaccination League as part of an international antivaccination crusade.


Some of the holdouts were surely persuaded by Ross and his English-only propaganda. But most of the unvaccinated population and therefore the bulk of the cases consisted of French Canadians. To convince them of the evils of vaccination, French Canadian physician Joseph Emery Coderre formed the first Canadian antivaccination society in Montreal and published numerous antivaccination pamphlets in French in the 1870s. His ardent antivaccination views fed the fervor of protesters who attacked the city council in 1875, halting efforts to enact mandatory smallpox vaccination in Montreal and leaving the city vulnerable to devastating disease 10 years later. When compulsory vaccination was attempted again in 1885, the riot was even bigger. Shortly thereafter, Coderre and colleagues created an antivaccination journal

(The article features one flyer)