I move "That the Vaccination (Amendment) Bill, 1928, be read a Second Time." This is a Bill to give the right to parents to sign a conscientious objection declaration if they believe that vaccination is against the health of their children, to give them the same rights and privileges that the people in England and Wales have at the present time. I am not introducing the Bill as an attack upon the medical profession, because members of the medical profession itself are greatly divided on the question of vaccination as a preventative of smallpox. I am introducing it at the request of my constituents, and in doing so I believe I am representing the views of a very large section of the citizens of the Saorstát. We demand the same liberties and rights for the people in the Twenty-six Counties as the people in England have. We in this country have advocated for years the right of self-determination from the political side. Surely if it is necessary to have self-determination on a political question it is more necessary to have self-determination for parents as regards what they think best for their children. I am not going into the arguments that other Deputies more qualified than I am may raise on the question of the introduction of vaccination into England by Doctor Jenner. I simply point out that over 5,000 people in County Wicklow, and 20,000 in Wexford, have objected to having their children vaccinated.
A large amount of expense would be put on the ratepayers by enforcing the Act, and the punishment on the parents can only be inflicted once. If they go to jail for refusing to comply with the law as it at present exists they cannot be punished a second time because a child is not vaccinated. All those in favour of vaccination may point out that smallpox exists in England, and that an epidemic may break out in Ireland, but the fining or imprisonment of parents is not a preventative. Medical men who are in favour of vaccination state that, in their opinion, the serum will act as a preventative for seven years. If that theory is correct, then to be consistent these medical men should advocate that everybody should get vaccinated every seven years, instead of inflicting punishment and hardship on children. I have no medical experience, but I have ten or twelve years' experience on a public board; I have seen cases where poor, ill-nourished children were forcibly vaccinated, and I have seen the after-effects and the sufferings of these poor children as a result of vaccination.
The medical profession and medical authorities are not unanimous on the question that vaccination is a preventative against smallpox. I am a member of a certain committee, and I know that medical men recommend the injection of tuberculin as a cure for tuberculosis. We know that that does not cure it any more than vaccination prevents smallpox. If the medical profession would help the people by getting them better housing, by solving the housing problem, by clearing out the slums of our cities and even of our towns, if the medical profession would impress on the Medical Department of the Department of Local Government the necessity for dealing with other diseases in the same way as they impress on them the necessity for enforcing the Vaccination Act, I say that we would not have the large and increasing number of people dying from consumption. Eminent medical men have placed on record their considered opinion that even the existing vaccination laws in Great Britain should be repealed, that vaccination should be abolished altogether, because they have found from experience that those who have been vaccinated are as liable to be attacked by smallpox as those who have not been vaccinated. I will refer to what happened in India, where there are many epidemics each year. A Royal Commission reported that 3,000 soldiers were vaccinated, and that 391 of them died from the results of vaccination. Australia, where the population is almost entirely unvaccinated, has been practically free from smallpox. The argument will be advanced here that there is a mild form of the disease in England, and that, on account of being so near our shores, there is a possibility that it may spread to this country. A report appeared in the "Irish Independent" on the 26th January stating that 15 medical men held a post-mortem examination on a man who was vaccinated, and they were unable to agree on a verdict as to whether he died from vaccination or smallpox. The employer of the man in question gave him the option of being vaccinated owing to the outbreak of a mild form of epidemic. At any rate, a post-mortem examination was made by 15 doctors, and they were unable to come to any decision. Medical men differ on this question.
Deputies may not agree with this Bill, but the problem of the unvaccinated people—those who have a conscientious objection to it—will remain. The authorities will not be able to force the people, even with their laws, to have their children vaccinated, as it is their belief that it is against the interests of the children. All the laws that may be made will not force the people to have their children vaccinated. I could quote various medical and lay opinions to show that vaccination is not at all a preventative of disease. We need not go to England for them, but can come nearer home to the late Dr. Russell of Dublin, who, in a series of articles, gave it as his considered opinion that vaccination had not proved a success, even in this country. As I pointed out, this debate will give rise to controversy on the medical side, but I ask the Minister to accept this Bill. It is not an anti-vaccination Bill, as parents in favour of vaccination can have their children vaccinated. It is not right, however, to impose it on those who conscientiously believe that vaccination is injurious to the health of their children. It is in order to give these people the right that wealthy people have at the present time that the Bill is introduced. I have had personal experience that when wealthy people can produce medical certificates to prove that it is injurious to the health of their children to have them vaccinated, the matter rests there, while the poor person is prosecuted, as he has no fee with which to bring in a medical man to state that it would be against the health of his children to have them vaccinated.