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Vaccination Films


Vaccination Films
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This week I gave a talk at my old stomping ground to accompany a couple of films: Surprise Attack (1951) and What Parents Want to Know (2001).

The Centre for History in Public Health regularly screens short videos at lunchtime for students, staff and members of the public and then gets an “expert” to give a short commentary on why they are significant. In the absence of an expert willing to come to London at short notice, they chose me.

But if you couldn’t go, fear not! Both films are available online through the Wellcome Library’s catalogue or on their YouTube channel. So you can recreate the experience by watching them and then listening to the audio of my brief presentation at the end.

(For full authenticity, please eat at c. 1pm with a cheap shop-bought sandwich and coffee.)

The first film is from the 1950s and encourages Britons to get vaccinated against smallpox. It dramatises a hypothetical smallpox outbreak in a “typical” English town.

The second is from the MMR crisis as the health authorities tried to convince parents about the scientific basis for the vaccine and dispel the rumours about autism that were rife at the time.

What Parents Want to Know is around half an hour long and can get quite repetitive. In a way, that is of historical interest in itself. But if you only have a short lunch break or tolerance for repetition, watch the first fifteen minutes or so (up until the end of the second “expert” section). That will give you more than enough flavour.

Surprise Attack

What Parents Want to Know

Commentary

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