This chapter focuses on the debates surrounding compulsory vaccination. In 1871 a select committee of the Commons was set up ‘to enquire into the operation of the [Vaccination] Act and report whether the said Act should be amended’. It represented the first serious attempt to examine both the practical operation and the moral implications of the law on compulsory vaccination. During many of the sessions of the committee, there was no dialogue. The anti-vaccinationists had always denied the right of the state to intervene in matters of health between parent and child, and played down the dangers of smallpox; the vaccinationists stressed the dangers of smallpox, and played down both the dangers of ‘cow-poxing’ and the rights of individuals.
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