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JAMA 100 Years Ago
February 23, 2005


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2005;293(8):926. doi:10.1001/jama.293.8.926-b

One of the stock arguments of the antivaccinationists has been that compulsory vaccination is contrary to the Constitution of the United States. They have prated of “personal liberty,” and have made dire threats of what they would do. In some states, weak-kneed courts have encouraged them in their delusions at the expense of public health and at the cost of the lives of the innocent. In Massachusetts especially they have fought compulsory vaccination, finally carrying the fight to the highest tribunal. And they have lost! February 20 the Supreme Court of the United States, speaking through Mr. Justice Harlan, held the Massachusetts compulsory vaccination law to be constitutional on the ground that in the protection of the health of the community compulsory vaccination may be exercised by the state as a police regulation. So those boards of health that have been timid in the past may now take courage. Proper state legislation for the abolishment of smallpox is made possible without any fear as to the constitutionality of such action.