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

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Hackney 1936

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Hackney]

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To repeat, we have then the extraordinary position that the
President of the Clapton and District Anti-Vivisection Society and
his supporting societies oppose immunisation, which is, apart from
accidents, perfectly harmless, or harmless apart from the infinitesimal
risk which always occurs when the skin is punctured—it was
reported in the Press that an adult picking loganberries died from
a pricked finger—and yet approve diphtheria, which our medical
superintendents, who surely ought to know, tell us is always a
dangerous disease, giving a general fatality of from 3 to 5 per cent.,
and, in laryngeal cases requiring tracheotomy, a fatality of approximately
20 per cent.
The President of the Society also opposes the use of antitoxin
which those same fever hospital superintendents also unanimously
tell us, from their own experience, has lowered the general death-rate
for diphtheria from approximately 23 per cent, to from 3 to 5 per
cent.
3. It is represented that the preparation of the immunising
material is accompanied by cruelty.
This is untrue. Experiments on the pancreas of the dog
previously mentioned could have had no connection with the preparation
of immunising material. There is, in my opinion, more
suffering involved in the preparation of animal food for the table
than in the preparation of immunising material. There may be
some justification for the prohibition of animal food—other foods
exist; there can be no justification for the prohibition of the use of
animals for the preparation of immunising material or antitoxin
for treatment since there are no other means available of the same
efficacy for combating the disease. This opinion as to the value of
immunisation and the efficacy of antitoxin treatment is unanimously
upheld by the men of high medical qualifications and experience who
are spending their lives in our great fever hospitals in the treatment
of diphtheria and other infectious diseases.
The total abolition of vivisection would not prohibit the
preparation of the materials used for immunisation against diphtheria
or for the antitoxin treatment of diphtheria in hospital. In
order to prohibit the use of animals for the preparation of the
materials used for immunisation against diphtheria or for the
antitoxin treatment of this disease , it would be necessary to have so
comprehensive a measure that the killing of animals either for food
or by the field sports such as shooting, fishing and hunting would
be forbidden. If food and field sports alone were exempted, the
impossible position would then arise that animals could be used in
a variety of ways causing death but only in the prevention and
treatment of disease would it be illegal to use animals.


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