London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Westminster 1896

Annual report upon the public health & sanitary condition of the united Parishes of St. Margaret & St. John, Westminster for the year 1896

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(B.) As to the objections made to vaccination on the ground of
injurious effects alleged to result therefrom; and the
nature and extent of any injurious effects which do, in
fact, so result.
In oases of alleged inoculation of Syphilis after vaccination,
the Commission came to the conclusion that " even if it can
be shown that in some instances syphilis has been inoculated by
vaccination, the conclusion would still remain that this cannot
have been so to any substantial extent."
With regard to this disease, the Commission states that
"there can be no doubt that the mortality from cancer shown
by the registered causes of deaths has considerably increased in
recent years. This disease is, it must be remembered, one to
which persons of advanced years are specially subject. The
young are seldom its victims. And the increase of mortality
from it has, for the most part, affected adults and principally old
people. There has been an actual decrease in the mortality from
the disease of those under five years of age. In the second and
third quinquenniads of life there has also been a decrease—
it is only in later age periods that the mortality begins to rise,
and the rise becomes more and more pronounced as the age
increases. The increase is, therefore, greatest in the age period
furtherest removed from the time of vaccination, whilst in the
age period nearest to it there is an actual decrease. This of itself
would seem enough to acquit vaccination of the charge of
having caused an increased mortality from cancer, even if the
origin of that increase remained in complete obscurity. This,
however, is not the case. The Registrar-General points out that
there can be very little doubt that the increase is to a considerable
extent apparent only, and is simply due to improved
diagnosis, and more careful statement of the cause of death on
the part of medical men. He calls attention in connection with
this to the fact, that year by year the number of deaths ascribed
to tumours, abdominal disease, or other similar imperfectly
stated causes, has been undergoing diminution. This explanation
of the increase of mortality shown by the registered causes of
deaths receives support from the fact that the increase of mortality
from cancer has been much greater among males than
females, the rate for males having risen 62 per cent. in 20 years,
while the rate for females rose only 43 per cent. As the Registrar-General
observes:—' The cancerous affections of males are
'in much larger proportion internal, or inaccessible, than are
'those of females, and consequently are more difficult of recognition, so that any improvement in medical diagnosis would
'add more to the male than the female reckoning. It may be
that, in addition to the apparent increase, there has been some
real increase in the mortality from cancer, but there is not a
shadow of evidence to connect this with the practice of vaccination,
whilst there is, as we have shown, evidence pointing the
other way."
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