Benjamin Franklin on vaccination

Ben Franklin is one of my all-time favorite historical figures; there are few people who have been universally successful in all they’ve done: business, politics, science, and humanitarianism. Franklin was one of these, and he’s left a guidebook for those who wish to follow in his footsteps. (And really, how can you beat $2.50 for a brand-new book?)

I’ve been reading through it lately, and while it’s easy reading, it’s so chock-full of wisdom that I find it slow going. Lunchtimes and evenings find me with pencil in hand, underlining and annotating the bits that especially speak to me, and there are many.

I came across this paragraph, and I was astonished. With the anti-vaccination crazies gaining influence and mindshare, this earthy bit of common sense was a breath of fresh air, written in the 1700s by someone who knew a world without vaccines, and saw the devastation caused by these diseases — smallpox, polio, and many others — first-hand.

In 1736, I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by smallpox, taken in the common way. I long regretted him bitterly and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of parents who omit that operation on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it, my example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and therefore that the safer should be chosen.

Simple and profound. Alas, I don’t think the anti-vaccination types will take his advice to heart, and we are all the poorer for it.

4 thoughts on “Benjamin Franklin on vaccination

  1. Yes….but which *IS* safer..? That is the true question here.

    Ahhh, and they lived in such a different time. A time of less knowledge of the nutrient value of different foods. They weren’t as hygienic, and they were subject to the elements more as well.

    I am not saying that vaccinations are the end-all evil of the world. I am saying, however, that everyone should have the right to decide whether they want to inject them into their children, freely, without being called a “crazy”. Just as children die when they may have possibly been saved had they been vaccinated, children die because of being vaccinated as well. The choice then, is – how can you live with yourself best as a parent if either one were to happen? Personally, I would much rather risk the disease, which may never come, and if it does, subject the child to treatment, rather than inject the poisons and hope it causes no harm.

  2. Yours is the only comment that I will allow on this entry that has any remotely anti-vaccine bent to it. And that’s only so I can respond to it.

    Personally, I would much rather risk the disease, which may never come, and if it does, subject the child to treatment, rather than inject the poisons and hope it causes no harm.

    Vaccines only work through herd immunity. The only reason you even think this way is because you’ve grown up in a world without polio. Without smallpox. Without measles, mumps, or rubella. These diseases mean nothing to you because you’ve not seen the ravages caused by them first hand.

    There is no cure for polio, so you can’t exactly “treat” them, now can you? No, if your child contracts the disease, they end up crippled, paralyzed, or dead. Unfortunately, jail time for you isn’t part of that equation, even though what you’ve done is basically criminal neglect and child endangerment.

    Polio has NOT been eradicated.

    We already have herd immunity for most disease. My mother’s generation did not, and she suffered from pertussis, which we now vaccinate against. It’s people like you that are going to compromise the health of the rest of the world, but ironically, it’s only your unvaccinated children that will pay the price. It’s just too bad that they don’t have any say in the matter.

  3. Hey! I like your post “Benjamin Franklin on vaccination” so well that I like to ask you whether I should translate into German and linking back. Answer welcome. Greetings Kroatien

  4. ??? Herd immunity is a theory, not a fact. People suffer from, and get diseases.

    Even the companies who make vaccines, the literature that comes with vaccines, doctors, medical boards, etc. all “admit” (I use that term loosely – since there is apparently a “battle” over pro-vaccine vs. “anti-vaccine”…in which, both sides are unequivocally wrong) that being vaccinated within 3 ~ 4 days of infection is congruent to being vaccinated prior. Within 7 ~ 10 days will also act as a treatment.

    I am not “pro” or “anti” vaccine – it is a good idea, it can work, but do not forget that it comes with risks (As all things do, especially in the medical world). Also do not forget, that they are made by companies, for profit – so whether or not they are researched/regulated properly, should ALWAYS be a concern (I do not “blindly” trust anyone…especially government bureaucracy or companies).

    You say “its too bad they do not have a say…” but you are proposing the same thing – that they do not have a say in “NOT” getting the vaccines.

    Bottom line – vaccines are a PRODUCT, made by COMPANIES. There are ingredients besides the vaccine itself, there are benefits and risks. As a CONSUMER you have the RIGHT to weigh the benefits and risks, and choose how and when you will or will not use a given product.

    FYI – the last case of small pox was in 1978, British researches working on the vaccine. So how come in French Guyana, Uruguay, remote areas of Brazil, Papua New Guinea…etc…where there is NOT a vaccine program, do these viruses show the same decline as countries that have vaccine policies/programs? Why is that? It goes against herd immunity, it also shows that yes – vaccines work, and you just might need to periodically (as a planet) review how they are administered, with what frequency, and so on.

    The insistence that everyone “blindly” accept any and all risks posed by a PRODUCT, and openly consume that product, reeks up stupidity.

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