Fintan O’Toole: To counter vaccine sceptics, we must understand them

Vaccine suspicion has a long-standing imaginative power that’s hard to overcome

Vaccination against Covid-19 has been developed and is being tested. File photograph: iStock

Vaccination against Covid-19 has been developed and is being tested. File photograph: iStock

In 1944, a somewhat cranky old man wrote a long letter to The Irish Times in which he gave out about “the dangerous and grossly unscientific operation called vaccination”. He maintained that “at present, intelligent and instructed people do not have their children vaccinated” and that “more people are now killed by vaccination than by smallpox”.

Unfortunately, the crank in question was not just some eccentric buffer or golf club bore. He had both a Nobel Prize and an Oscar and was widely regarded as one of the world’s great minds. He was by far the most influential Irishman of the previous half-century. His name was George Bernard Shaw.

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