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Mass vaccination and the public since the Second World War

Vaccinating Britain investigates the relationship between the British public and vaccination policy since 1945. It is the first book to examine British vaccination policy across the post-war period and covers a range of vaccines, providing valuable context and insight for those interested in historical or present-day public health policy debates. Drawing on government documents, newspapers, internet archives and medical texts it shows how the modern vaccination system became established and how the public played a key role in its formation. British parents came to accept vaccination as a safe, effective and cost-efficient preventative measure. But occasional crises showed that faith in the system was tied to contemporary concerns about the medical profession, the power of the state and attitudes to individual vaccines. Thus, at times the British public demanded more comprehensive vaccination coverage from the welfare state; at others they eschewed specific vaccines that they thought were dangerous or unnecessary. Moreover, they did not always act uniformly, with “the public” capable of expressing contradictory demands that were often at odds with official policy. This case study of Britain’s vaccination system provides insight into the relationship between the British public and the welfare state, as well as contributing to the historiography of public health and medicine.

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The supposed apathy shown towards diphtheria by certain sections of the British public was largely overcome by the 1960s – or, at least, immunisation rates had improved to such an extent that the Ministry of Health was no longer concerned about widespread diphtheria epidemics. Yet it did not have the same successes with smallpox vaccination. The problem of low rates of infant vaccination and childhood revaccination among the population remained a continual source of irritation for the Ministry. In the government's favour, the success of

in Vaccinating Britain
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A bird’s eye view of intervention with emphasis on Britain, 1875–78

, Austria–Hungary would annex Bosnia and Herzegovina; Russia would annex Bessarabia, which it had lost with the 1856 Paris Treaty; Bulgaria, Rumelia and Albania were to become autonomous states; and Thessaly and Crete would be annexed by Greece. If the Ottoman Empire collapsed, Constantinople was to become a free city. 26 Disraeli, Gladstone and the British public Apart from apprehension about Russia, another reason for Britain’s aloofness was

in Humanitarian intervention in the long nineteenth century
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Refugees

such reporting, especially prominent in the Daily Mail, would ‘only make matters worse’.4 Admittedly, the anxiety about a fifth column sprang from the notion that Belgian and Dutch refugees, rather than French, contained large numbers of Nazi sympathisers, and 2499 Chap2 7/4/03 2:42 pm Page 31 Refugees 31 would subside in July when the number of incomers dried up,5 yet in summer 1940 it is not difficult to believe that the British public suspected anyone with a foreign accent, despite the fact that on 11 September 1940 Count Ciano could confide to his diary

in The forgotten French
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of being a good British citizen. 5 Vaccination is not simply imposed upon the British public. It is something which the public demands of its government and its fellow citizens. 6 The preceding chapters have shown how the routine immunisation of children became the status quo in Britain after the Second World War. Modern vaccination programmes based on laboratory science and state-guided public health administration arrived on a national scale in the 1940s. The success of the anti-diphtheria campaign during the war showed both to the Ministry

in Vaccinating Britain
Vaccine scares, statesmanship and the media

their children vaccinated. The daughter of the then health minister was vaccinated, as was Prince William, ‘amidst great publicity’. 28 Again, this seems to corroborate Jasanoff's interpretation of the relationship between the British public and their politicians. The advice and actions of trusted individuals was taken to be an appropriate means of getting the public to accept risks and uncertainties, even where the data did not straightforwardly support the

in The politics of vaccination
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how they were maintained. Successive British governments achieved this by responding to various challenges, including vaccine shortages, public scepticism over safety, scientific controversies and supply logistics. The schedule expanded from just two disease-prevention programmes in 1945 (smallpox and diphtheria) to around twenty routine and optional vaccines in 2018. 13 But this was not simply a government project to improve public health. The British public played a key role in shaping the priorities of the programme, in turn placing expectations on the British

in Vaccinating Britain
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Migration research and the media

Forum Salon in London (in which Hannah and Kirsten participated), Ian Dunt (journalist and editor of the blog politics.co.uk ) argued that ‘politicians, journalists and decision makers still tend to be middle class white men who will identify more with “people like them”’ (Jones, 2015 ). Dunt suggested that advocates for the rights of migrants and asylum seekers should choose human interest stories involving people the British

in Go home?
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cases could be counted on one hand, but the vaccination programme that achieved this decline did not eliminate polio overnight; nor was it without significant financial and logistical difficulties. This chapter focuses on the theme of demand. This was not unique to polio. As has been seen in previous chapters, the British public had come to demand health and other welfare protections from the government, particularly since the 1940s. There was active demand for emergency vaccination during smallpox epidemics. What set polio apart is that we see

in Vaccinating Britain
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-weakened relationship with the British public, on whom 6 Science and the politics of openness they no longer depend for the bulk of their teaching budget. There are concerns amongst leading scientists, ethicists and lawyers about ‘who owns science’ – that is, about the privatisation of science – and calls are being heard for science to serve the public good more explicitly (see Holmwood, 2011; University of Manchester, Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation, 2010). Science, politics and publics are entangled in a complex relationship with normative ideas about openness

in Science and the politics of openness