You can always tell when summer’s winding down because back-to-school ads begin creeping into the newspapers. But in Sonoma County, the approach of another school year also brings the annual showdown between health officials and parents over vaccinations – and has, for more than a century.

In the 1907 items transcribed below, a news article reported that the new vaccination law was met with protests, but no details were given as to why. Insight came from a letter to the editor that quoted one Dr. Theodore Judson Higgins, who argued against the “inoculation of healthy people with vaccine” because diseases like smallpox were disappearing, and “vaccination is responsible for more or less of leprosy.” Reading that, I’m sure many a mother became began to wonder if Johnny learning to read was worth the risk of Johnny’s nose falling off.

The good Dr. Higgins, who was quoted from an article in The California Medical Journal, suggested many other helpful ideas to his colleagues in medicine; earlier that year, he wrote that the best treatment for pneumonia was to thickly smear the patient with olive oil, lard, and emetics, such as ipecac and strychnine.

But the anti-vaccination steamroller was only starting. The 1920 “Horrors of vaccination exposed and illustrated” by Charles Michael Higgins (unknown if related to Theodore Judson Higgins) insisted that vaccines not only didn’t work, but caused epidemics – and that there was an international conspiracy to cover up this awful truth. Also fear-mongering was Daniel David Palmer, the crank founder of chiropracty who originally claimed he had magnetic hands. Palmer’s basic text, The Science of chiropractic, has a long section denouncing vaccinations as useless and often fatal. Soon the conspiracy thinkers and the chiropractors joined forces, and the “Chiropractors’ constitutional rights committee” wrote and published in 1941 its own screed, “The Horrors of Vaccination and Inoculation at Work,” which went so far as to claim most people who were vaccinated would become seriously ill, and mandatory vaccinations were unconstitutional. The Chas. Higgins book is now back in print, and is probably feeding the fears of a new generation of Sonoma County parents.

The Enforcing of the Vaccination Law is Not Favored by all–Trustees to Purchase Virus

As was anticipated when it was announced that the vaccination law was to be enforced in Sonoma county protests are already being received. Clerks of several of the school districts have called upon County Superintendent DeWitt Montgomery to make further inquiries regarding methods of procedure, and some of them have brought protests along from people in their respective districts. But the law will be enforced. The State Board has sent out its ultimatum, not only to this county, but to others.

Upon inquiry regarding the law it was ascertained Wednesday that it is necessary for school trustees to purchase good and reliable virus to be used at the time of vaccination. In cases where parents are too poor to pay for the physician this may also be made a charge against the district.

While there are protests coming in there are parents who are taking the matter philosophically and are having the children vaccinated without murmuring.

– Press Democrat, September 19, 1907


Editor REPUBLICAN: Will you kindly find space for the following synopsis of a convincing article by Theodore Judson Higgins, Ph. G., M. D., M. S., recently published in The California Medical Journal, on the dangers attending the practice of vaccination?

Dr. Higgins introduces in the foremost paragraph of his paper a long list of names of distinguished medical men who assert that vaccination is responsible for more or less of leprosy. He argues the dangers of compulsory vaccination, the inoculation of healthy people with vaccine and asserts that the conditions are so grave arising from the practices that legislative correctives should, through popular petition, be applied. Sanitary ameiloration should be substituted for innoculative experiment and “other drastic forms of medication” abandoned. Germicides, fumigation and the complete destruction of the bodies of all persons dying of small pox, leprosy, tuberculosis and other dreaded diseases are urged as the most effective remedies. Small pox is decreasing in violence in this country, just as it has erased in China, where it is scarcely feared, it being the contention of Dr. Higgins that true smallpox loses its fatal qualities in five or six generations. By his invention of the terms, “variolae vaccinae,” Dr. Jenner has confounded the student and led the investigator astray, and although the unlikeness between the inoculated cowpox vesicle and the smallpox pustule has been demonstrated the medical profession yet adhere to the Jennerian theory and practice.

Dr. Higgins declares it is the blood and not the tissues most affected by incapable diseases and that “its altered state is maintained no matter what materials are added to the blood.” The tissues may and do recover but the blood by an assimilative and selective process retains the taint. Any foreign material introduced into the blood remains there and will sooner or later manifest its appearance in the body.

Dr. Higgins concludes his paper with the statement that during his professional experience he has by research and experiment, both clinically and microscopically, verifies the theories of the authorities he quotes.
— “A. G.”

– Santa Rosa Republican, November 13, 1907

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