The goal of this project is to produce a regional history of local responses to vaccination for smallpox in Southeast Asia from its first introduction in 1804 to the initiation, in 1966, of the World Health Organization's program to eradicate smallpox. Southeast Asia has been a crossroads where peoples, and their microbes, from East Africa, Europe, the Middle East, India, East Asia and Australasia have come into contact since pre-historic times. This is true not only of ancient human scourges such as smallpox, cholera, and malaria but also of more recent international public health problems such as SARS and Zika virus. For at least a thousand years before the World Health Organization declared smallpox eradicated, this dread disease adversely affected the physical health of individuals and the economic health of entire communities worldwide. Thus, in each place where vaccination to prevent smallpox was introduced it provoked interest. However, it sometimes also produced controversy, and in each place the interest and the controversy were shaped by local factors and local actors. Worldwide, when political decisions were made to enforce vaccination, this produced resistance and in colonial societies protests against vaccination and other health regulations were often co-opted by anti-colonial movements. In a post-colonial globalized world, the history of vaccination for smallpox offers a window on the social factors which molded, and still mold, responses to international efforts to eradicate specific epidemic diseases. The environmental, ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity of Southeast Asia ensures that a monograph on the history of vaccination in the countries of Southeast Asia will offer particularly interesting insights into this global story. Through careful analysis of the records of colonial and indigenous governments, private papers from colonial and indigenous physicians and nurses, and local newspapers and magazines, this study will offer information pertinent to both historic and current controversies regarding prophylactic treatments, such as vaccinations and inoculations, for epidemic diseases.

Public Health Relevance

/Public Health Relevance Statement: This project is relevant to international public health concerns because although vaccination remains one of the most effective means of controlling epidemic diseases, vaccination programs are often controversial. Smallpox is the only human disease that has ever been eradicated; the World Health Organization is trying to do the same for polio, and public health programs worldwide push vaccination for a growing number of diseases. However, these public health efforts often become embroiled in political controversies in post-colonial third world countries that mirror earlier controversies over colonial-era vaccination programs against smallpox in Southeast Asia.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Library of Medicine (NLM)
Health Sciences Publication Support Awards (NLM) (G13)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZLM1)
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Vanbiervliet, Alan
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Southern Connecticut State University
New Haven
United States
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