A comic from the 1930s mocking anti-vaxxers predicted the future

A comic from the 1930s mocking anti-vaxxers predicted the future

A Depression-era cartoon about vaccine misinformation has become relevant once again and it's pretty eery.

The cartoon, which has resurfaced on Twitter and gone viral - if you pardon the double-meaning- shows a person labelled ‘anti-vaccinationist’ walking off a cliff called ‘misinformation’ into a sea of smallpox. It makes the point that holding anti-vax beliefs leads to danger - in this case, smallpox.

Smallpox is a now eradicated virus that caused high fevers, fatigues and a rash. It is estimated to have killed some 300 million people from 1900 alone and a vaccine for the illness was first developed in 1796. Despite this development, scepticism about vaccines remained high. The Anti Vaccination Society of America was founded in 1879, for instance following a visit to America by leading British anti-vaccinationist William Tebb.

This contributed to the fact that the illness was not eradicated until the 1980s.

Now, misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine is having a similarly negative effect. On Instagram alone, the BBC reports, major anti-vaccination accounts grew nearly fivefold in 2020, reaching over 4 million followers in the UK.

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Meanwhile, there have been waves of anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine protests in the last year, and busy organisations like Full Fact have had to respond to a lot of Covid misinformation.

To prove just how long anti-vaxxer conspiracy theories have been going on for, Huffington Post report that this cartoon was first published in 1930 in a booklet called Health in Pictures.

Reacting to the cartoon, people on social media despaired at how little things have appeared to have changed in the last few hundred years:

51.7 per cent of the British population have now received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. We can only hope that the spread of the vaccine is faster than the spread of misinformation.

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