'Pock-marked faces: A curious illusion', anti-vaccination leaflet, England, 1881-1890
Smallpox vaccination was made compulsory in Great Britain in 1853 for chil-dren under three years of age, and in 1867 for children less than 14 years of age. The National Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League was founded in 1874 to protest against these laws as many felt that government was interfering too much in their private lives. Those in favour of vaccination argued that the pock-marked faces of the survivors of smallpox would be a thing of the past when the disease had been eradicated. This eight-page leaflet informs the reader that “pock-marked faces” were a “curious illusion” and had disap-peared before vaccination was introduced but were now making a comeback. Vaccination ceased to be legally required in 1909.
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Smallpox is an infectious virus unique to humans. It results in a characteristic skin rash and fluid-filled blisters. After successful vaccination campaigns throughout the 1800s and 1900s, the World Health Organisation certified the eradication of smallpox in 1979. Smallpox is the only human infectious disease to have been completely wiped out.