“TO THE doctors and nurses, whose untiring efforts are a shining example of selfless sacrifice, go the nation’s thanks…”

It could be someone in 2021 speaking, as mass vaccination against Covid-19 begins, but in fact, this is a line from a British Pathe film of April 1950.

Crowds of people queued up at medical centres across Glasgow to receive the smallpox vaccination following a deadly outbreak in the city.

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The disease had been brought to Glasgow by an Indian sailor, who had been treated in hospital and had recovered. Sadly, six people - a doctor, four nurses and a laundry maid, all of whom had some direct contact with the seaman in hospital – died and 19 people were infected.

Glasgow Times:

Glasgow health bosses were so terrified of a serious outbreak, they started a mass vaccination programme. At one point, 600 people an hour were being vaccinated at the Cochrane Street medical centre, including the Pathe cameraman Bill McConville.

In striking parallels with today’s pandemic, visiting was banned at 200 hospitals across the country and a tracing system eventually tracked down almost 2000 possible contacts of those who caught the disease, from family members to bus conductors.

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Our sister title reported that as a result of the outbreak, blood donations were down, but in response to an appeal, 200 crew members - including commanders - of the American destroyers currently on the Clyde each donated a pint.

Glasgow Times:

Fortunately the 1950 outbreak was contained. In 1978, the World Health Organisation announced smallpox had been eradicated.