By Natisha Robb
In “When the Personal Really is Historical (and Scary!),” Jacqueline Antonovich, a gender and medicine historian, described her 21st-century experience with pertussis, a.k.a. whooping cough, an extremely contagious “good old-fashioned Oregon Trail disease” that recently reemerged since its near eradication in the 1970s. While Antonovich suggests a recent surge in the anti-vaccine movement, records unveil a history fraught with ongoing controversy. Before vaccinations became a childhood rite of passage, every family knew someone who lost a child to a now vaccine-preventable disease. Yet despite the magnitude of casualties from smallpox, measles, polio, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis in populations lacking herd immunity, vulnerable communities did not always welcome vaccination campaigns with open arms.