Category Archives: Theme Week

Animal Matter: The Making of ‘Pure’ Bovine Vaccine at the Connaught Laboratories and Farm at the Turn of the Century

By Joanna Dean Many of humanity’s most virulent diseases emerged from the fertile intersections of human and other animal bodies. Cures also crossed species barriers, and in the crossing carried a taint of their animal origins. The University of Toronto’s Connaught Laboratories and Farm produced bovine smallpox vaccine from calves infected with cowpox, as well as a variety of products… Read more »

An Epidemic in Madness?

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By Mat Savelli & Erika Dyck Contagious diseases are usually understood as physical illnesses, but the rather less orthodox idea of infectious mental diseases is worth considering. Historically, public health officials, immigration officers and well-meaning social reformers harnessed the language of madness, mental deficiency and mental illness to galvanize a popular response against the threats posed by such afflicted individuals to… Read more »

Personifying Pestilence: How Political Cartoons Shape Our Views of Disease

By Jacob Steere-Williams These are heady times for those who study mediated communication and social discourse. The January 2015 attack at the Paris office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which resulted in the death of twelve people, ushered in a wave of reflections on the social shaping power of political cartoons in both form and content. Stoked by controversial… Read more »

The Vaccination Experience: Historical Insights from Children and Families

By Mona Gleason The recent outbreak of measles in North America has again raised questions about why small numbers of parents refuse to have their children vaccinated, despite clear and commanding evidence of its safety and efficacy in preventing disease.[1]  Despite these outliers, the vast majority of Canadian families take advantage of publically funded immunization programs to protect their children… Read more »

Quarantined but Not Forgotten: Combatting Vaccination Resistance with Historical Education

By Sara Wilmshurst I was lucky; no one asked me to glue lentils to my face, so I got to stand by and watch while a medical student was transformed into a smallpox sufferer before my very eyes. The makeup artist found that lentils and Rice Krispies made the most convincing pustules, when coated in makeup and vividly shaded. We weren’t… Read more »

Bacille de Calmette-Guérin, or BCG Vaccine for Tuberculosis

By Maureen Lux Haven’t got your BCG vaccine against tuberculosis?  Fortunately, most Canadians don’t need to worry about that one.[1]  Though BCG was never widely used in Canada, until very recently most Aboriginal infants were routinely administered the vaccine.   The difference has something to do with higher levels of tuberculosis in some, though certainly not all, northern communities; but it… Read more »

Funding, failures, and faux pas: Vaccines and the complicated task of sharing responsibility for global health

By Casey Hurrell As the Ebola epidemic winds down in West Africa, the World Health Organization is stressing the necessity of reestablishing routine immunization activities, especially for measles and pertussis (whooping cough).[1] Estimates suggest that the rate of routine immunization against preventable diseases, including measles, plummeted by up to 75% during the Ebola epidemic.[2]

Victory with Vaccines? A  Modified Account for the Twenty-first Century

By Anne Hardy The declining mortality from infectious disease in Victorian Britain owed little to preventive medical procedures such as vaccination. One thing is certain: the modern anti-vaccine movement has recently brought great attention to the role of vaccines in reducing child mortality during the 20th century. And while this is particularly true for diseases like measles and polio, the… Read more »

“Be Wise – Immunize!”: Vaccine Promotion in Canada During the 20th Century

By Catherine Carstairs A growing number of measles cases this winter has reignited the debate over vaccination.  While the vast majority of Canadians believe in the merits of vaccination, and inoculate their children against a wide range of diseases, including measles, a significant number of Canadians refuse to vaccinate their children or do not complete the full vaccination schedule. Vaccine… Read more »

Theme Week: Infectious Disease, Contagion and the History of Vaccines

Edited By Jim Clifford, Erika Dyck and Ian Mosby Infectious disease, public health and vaccination continue to be major news stories in the early twenty-first century, from SARS in 2002-2003 through to H1N1 in 2009 and more recent concerns about Ebola in Sierra Leone, measles at Disneyland and mumps in the NHL.  In February 2015, popular Canadian magazine Maclean’s examined… Read more »