Group 4

The OG Anti-Vaxxers: The Lessons of the Brazilian Vaccine Riots in the Light of

Ben Bierley and Grace Seifert

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Crowds are gathering. The word is spreading. Collectively online and in person, thousands of modern day Americans gather and congregate to spread the conspiracy of the anti-vaccination movement. Many seem to think this is a modern movement that has always had a white suburban identity. Grace and Ben take a look back in history to catalogue a very different anti-vaccination campaign. We turn to turn-of-the-twentieth-century Brazil to uncover the details of the little remembered vaccination riots in Rio de Janeiro. In exploring the identity and evolution of the anti-vaccination movement, the hosts help listeners understand the history and culture of the time. Why would people induce riots over a vaccine to a disease? How does identity shape how a nation responds to a public crisis? Transporting listeners to this turbulent period in Brazil’s history, we draw parallels between Brazil’s past and the United States’ present. 

Further Reading 

Assuncao, Giovane Batista. “The Vaccine Revolt in Brazil.” ReVista. The David D. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University, September 2020.

Chalhoub, Sidney. “Revisiting Brazil’s Public Health Rebellion (A Century Before Bolsonaro).” Americas Quarterly. Americas Society/Council of the Americas, April 23, 2020.

“History of Smallpox.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, August 30, 2016.

Skidmore, Thomas E. “The Vaccine Riots and the Difficulty of Modernization in Rio De Janeiro.” Brazil Five Centuries of Change. Oxford University Press, 2010.

“Smallpox.” World Health Organization. World Health Organization, n.d.