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5 J. Pharmacy & L. 249 (1995-1996)
Jacobson v. Massachusetts: Impact on Informed Consent and Vaccine Policy

handle is hein.journals/jpharm5 and id is 255 raw text is: JACOBSON v. MASSACHUSETTS:1 IMPACT ON
The 1905 Supreme Court case, Jacobson v. Massachusetts, is
cited as legal precedent for compulsory vaccination laws in all fifty
U.S. states and the District of Columbia.2 These laws mandate vac-
cinations for admission to primary and secondary schools, with many
states mandating vaccines for children entering licensed daycare, or
adult students entering college.3
This article reviews the impact of Jacobson v. Massachusetts on
the practice of medical informed consent and U.S. vaccination policy,
especially its influence on the passage of the National Childhood
Vaccine Injury Act of 19864. The various sections of the Act are
discussed, as are recent developments resulting from this legislation.
In response to concerns about smallpox the Board of Health in
Cambridge, Massachusetts adopted a regulation in 1902 that all the
inhabitants of the city who have not been successfully vaccinated
since March 1, 1897, be vaccinated or revaccinated.''5 Massachusetts
law designated such board[s] of health of a city or town . . . [to]
require and enforce the vaccination and revaccination of all the
inhabitants and to provide them with the means of free vaccina-
tion.'6 The regulation stated that any adult over twenty- one years
of age and not under guardianship [who] refuses or neglects to comply
with such requirement shall forfeit five dollars, while children who
present[ed] a certificate, signed by a registered physician that they are
unfit subjects for vaccination were exempt.7
Jacobson, an adult resident of Cambridge, refused to be vacci-
nated and pleaded not guilty at his arraignment. The trial court
1. Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905).
2. See e.g., Zucht v. King, 260 U.S. 174 (1922). See also, Dover, An Evaluation of
Immunization Regulations in Light of Religious Objections and the Developing Right of Privacy,
4 U. DAYTON L. REv. 401 (1979).
3. State Immunization Requirements 1991-1992, U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of
Immunization, Atlanta, Georgia.
4. 42 U.S.C. §§300aa-I to 300aa-34 (1986).
5. Jacobson, supra note 1, at 12.
6. Id.
7. Id.

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