Mass forced plague vaccine campaign in Madagascar in 1920s gave people the plague, says local historian

L Express Madagascar carries an article today on a compulsory plague vaccination campaign in the 1920s, which was stopped after people died from the vaccine, and which has left a lasting scepticism against plague vaccines in the local population.

A Google translation with a few tweaks by me  to make it easier to understand.

When the plague broke out in Antananarivo in 1921, and spread into its peripheral regions, the (people of Madagascar) Malagasy began to doubt the effectiveness of sanitary regulations that did not compensate for their severity and oppressive. And according to historian V. Faranirina Esoavelomandroso, in his study on “the interpretation by the Merina of plague endemic phenomenon in the Central Highlands 1921-1936” (1980), seeing the “irresistible spread” of a deadly plague, Madagascans, specifically nationalist leaders, accused the government of genocide. Indeed, the plague was considered a “political” disease, they thought it “knows to distinguish between races and hits only the natives.” And as these attacks were launched publicly when political unrest was growing ground, “they find an echo among a population who see the death of people who received the plague vaccination, designed to protect against the disease.” Long accustomed to smallpox vaccination, the Madagascans did not easily agree to immunization against the plague. In fact, until 1935, various vaccines were imposed that were not very effective, which explains their reluctance to medical services and the administration and ultimately their lack of confidence in the West but also in the prophylaxis Fanjakana .

But a brief history is needed. Still affected by the recent outbreak of Spanish flu, (the people) of Antananarivo stormed vaccination centers soon as the plague was declared, confident in principle of immunization. Fifteen days after the publication of the order, more than 46 500 people were vaccinated. “Crowned by an undeniable success, the 1921 campaign, in which we used a previously administered local vaccine designed by the staff of the Institut Pasteur, seems not officially marked by incidents. ” However, already the distinction between native and European caused some concern at first. Thre was a distinction between the vaccination centers Europeans also led by European doctors, and those of the natives under the supervision of local doctors or medical students. Also different was the obligation for natives to have the vaccination one month after the epidemic ended.

As soon as we realized the vaccination conferred only short-term immunity (two to four months), gave up its systematic application; it becomes optional except for the natives who travelled around. After the compulsory mass vaccination in July 1921, this retreat illuminates the profane, hesitations otherwise uncertainties of officials. Doubt settled: “How is it that a medication that was effective and preventive against smallpox is neither against the plague? Is the injected liquid really a drug? ” From there, the step was quickly taken to seeing in the vaccine poison capable of causing a disease called plague to justify oppression and control over the Malagasy. “Especially since the death of some people who received the vaccine or serum plague seems suspicious. “On 25 April 1923, the director of the Pasteur Institute, responsible for the manufacture of the local vaccine used previously, ordered in a confidential letter sent to the Director of Health Service, its distriubition to be immediately stopped. Indeed, vaccinated native not only did not escape the deadly plague, but more death occured “after a month when immunization was to administered.” A recent incident helped reinforce the idea of ​​the vaccine harmfulness. Prisoners vaccinated contracted “an abscess at the injection” and become carriers of plague bacilli and died of septicemia. Since the vaccine used on them belonged to a series that had been used on others, other fatal accidents of the same kind had to have happened. In any case, the idea of ​​poisoning made the rounds and the rumor circulated even in the capital that “nurses are injecting the isolated with urine to kill them” (report MAI 1926).

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