Let me describe a public health scenario: An infectious disease is spreading widely throughout the community. A method of immunization is readily available and very effective, but public resistance to it is high, especially in urban areas and among wealthier and more educated social classes. Fears over the safety of the available technique run rampant, spearheaded by a very small but real risk that vaccination may cause serious harm, especially in children. Differing opinions about whether or not immunization should be compulsory or voluntary, or whether the rights of the few should trump the rights of the many, are at the center of public debate.
Sound familiar? It should. Only this is not a description of the recent measles outbreak and safety of vaccines in the United States. It's a description of the public response in the U.S. and Europe to the smallpox vaccine in the late 1700s to early 1800s.