Vaccination while you dance: persuasive press and poster promotion of the Polio vaccine to British publics, 1956-1962
06 Mar 2018, 17:30 to 06 Mar 2018, 19:30
IHR Peter Marshall Room, N204, Second Floor, IHR, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
Gareth Millward , London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Hannah J Elizabeth , London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
People in the 1950s feared polio. When Jonas Salk’s vaccine was announced to the world in 1955, it was hailed as a miracle of modern science and a victory against a dreaded disease. And yet the British government frequently struggled to raise registration rates for the vaccine. The Ministry of Health embarked on several promotional campaigns to combat this across the 1950s. These campaigns were unusual in comparison to previous British vaccine drives, aimed as they were at broad swathes of the public, rather than infants and those occupying professions which placed them at specific risk. Indeed, from 1956 to 1961, the programme expanded from children under the age of 9 to those under the age of 15, young adults under 26 and finally all citizens under 40. Unlike typical programmes – where publicity would target parents (usually mothers) to present their children for the procedure – there were several cohorts of differing ages each requiring different approaches. This paper explores how this was achieved by examining the posters and press advertisements of the period, paying particular attention to the emotions which lay behind polio vaccination promotion. It shows how the government used prevailing emotional responses to polio to try to improve uptake. From bonnie babies to male bread-winners via courting teenagers, polio vaccine was ‘sold’ as an integral part of good healthy citizenship for people of all ages.
Chair: Dion Georgiou
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