Via the Behind the Scenes blog of the New York Historical Society we get this treat in advance of an upcoming exhibit called “BE SURE! BE SAFE! GET VACCINATED! Smallpox, Vaccination and Civil Liberties in New York.” The blog post notes: “The film is based on the real-life story of the 1947 smallpox scare in New York City. An American businessman returning from Mexico was the first to die from the disease, though he was misdiagnosed as having bronchitis. Two others were diagnosed as having smallpox soon after, and all who came in contact with them were required to be vaccinated. The New York City Health Commissioner recommended vaccination to all New Yorkers, and the city provided vaccines for free across the city. Through propaganda and public education the program became incredibly effective, all without encroaching on personal civil liberties, which wouldn’t have been the case had the city instituted mandatory vaccination. Over six million New Yorkers were immunized within a few weeks; according to CNN, ‘Doctors immunized residents at a rate of eight injections per minute – 500,000 in one day. The feared smallpox epidemic was averted.’ The last naturally-occurring case of smallpox was in 1977.”
The Horror of Smallpox! Disease and Film Noir [Behind the Scenes]