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The first Vaccination Act, passed in 1840 (3 & 4 Vict. c. 29), and amended in 1841 by 4 & 5 Vict. c. 32, while it provided the means of vaccination, at the public cost, for every person in England and Wales, left it entirely at the option of every person whether he would resort to the public vaccinator for this purpose or not; it being expressly provided, however, that, if he did so, he should not be thereby pauperised.
The arrangements made in pursuance of those Acts, by the Guardians and Overseers of the Poor throughout the country, under the supervision of the Poor Law Commissioners, and afterwards of the Poor Law Board, are believed to have been fully sufficient for the object which they had in view ; but, although ample opportunity for gratuitous vaccination was thus afforded, and although the public availed themselves of it to a large extent, the Legislature nevertheless considered it desirable, in 1853, to make further provision on the subject.
The Vaccination Extension Act of that year (16 & 17 Vict. c. 100), founded on a Bill which was introduced by Lord Lyttelton into the House of Lords, adopted the new and important principle (new, at least, in this country) of rendering the practice of vaccination compulsory. The Bill encountered some opposition out of doors with respect to its fundamental principle, as well as its details; but that principle ultimately received the concurrence and confirmation of the Legislature, and the details of the measure having been subjected to revision, the Act was passed, and received the Royal
Assent on the 20th of August 1853. It is not necessary here to discuss or explain the grounds on which it was deemed advisable that the vaccination of all infants within a few months of their birth should be prescribed by law and enforced by penalties; but those who wish for information on that subject may be referred to the Report of the Epidemiological Society, which was laid before the House of Commons during the progress of the Bill.* It may
be observed that that Act did not repeal the Acts of 1840 and 1841 (3 & 4 Vict. c. 29, and 4 & 5 Vict. c. 32), by which a machinery was established for providing, at the cost of the poor rates, but not as parochial relief, the means of public vaccination for all those who might be disposed to avail themselves of it. On the contrary, it left that machinery in full force, and addressed itself mainly to such provisions as were necessary for ensuring, on the one hand, that the children should be brought to the medical practitioners to be vaccinated; and, on the other hand, that the medical practitioners should duly perform the operation. The first section enjoined the Guardians and Overseers of the poor forth with to revise the existing arrangements, if necessary, and from time to time to take the most effectual means for making their arrangements on this subject publicly known. The sixth section also contained a special provision with respect to the remuneration of the medical practitioners.
According to the scheme of the Act of 1853, the parent (or guardian) of every child born after the 1st August 1853, was required, under a penalty not exceeding 20s., to take such child (unless otherwise vaccinated) within three (or four) months after birth, to the public
* House of Commons, Sess. Papers, No. 434, 3 May 1853.
vaccinator of the district, who was thereupon required to vaccinate such child, unless the child were unfit, and to give a certificate of such unfitness, or of the vaccination (whether successful or unsuccessful), as the case might be. For this latter purpose the child was to be taken to the vaccinator for inspection on the eighth day after vaccination: under a penalty of 20s. for neglect. The certificate of unfitness was to be renewed every two months, so long as the unfitness might last.
Where the vaccination was successful, a duplicate certificate was to be sent by the vaccinator to the Registrar of Births and Deaths for the sub-district in which the operation was performed, who was to keep a register of all such certificates for future reference, receiving the fees specified in the Statute for every entry, search, or extract. The Registrar was also to give notice to the parent (or guardian) of every unvaccinated child, within seven days after the registration of the birth, as to the requirements of the Act.
It may be added that the Registrar-General was to furnish books, forms, and regulations, for carrying the Act into effect : (s. 11; see also 21 Vict. c. 25, s. 7).
In 1858 a further important step was taken by the Legislature in conferring on the Privy Council certain powers for promoting and superintending the execution of the Vaccination Acts. By 21 & 22 Vict. c. 97, passed on 2d August 1858, the powers of the General Board of Health, which expired in that year, were transferred to the Privy Council; and the Council were further empowered to issue regulations “for securing the due qualification of persons to be thereafter contracted with by Guardians and Overseers of unions and parishes in England for the vaccination of persons resident in such unions and parishes, and for securing the