Wednesday, 23 February 2022. Written by Saigoneer.
A century ago, the colonial government was active in inoculating Vietnamese citizens against a variety of diseases.
While Vietnam’s recent massive COVID-19 vaccine efforts have proven a great success in reducing deaths and returning the country to some semblance of normalcy, it is hardly the first time a government here has stepped in to inoculate the population against dangerous contagions. About 100 years ago, the French managed a vigorous campaign to inoculate indigenous Vietnamese against a variety of diseases such as smallpox, cholera and tuberculosis as part of larger health and sanitation initiatives.
At the time, medicine in the west was experiencing great advances as understandings of germs and viruses expanded. Vietnam played an important part thanks to doctors such as Pasteur, Yersin and Calmette, who developed vaccines and treatments for a wide range of ailments while in the country. While western medicine came at the expense of domestic remedies that were categorized along racist lines as barbaric or backward, they did save many lives and enrich the world’s understanding of disease control.
The below photos from RedsVN depict the colonial government’s efforts to distribute vaccines. France had instituted a policy that “the doctor should go to the patient, not the patient to the doctor,” which helps explain why we see doctors in rural, domestic settings. The foreign doctors, in an attempt to cultivate a domestic medical ecosystem, trained local doctors to assist with procedures.
A representative of the mandarin government with a French doctor explaining vaccine procedures and purposes to local officials.
Citizens gathered in a village’s communal courtyard in northern Vietnam to receive vaccinations in 1929 or 1930.
People lined up before receiving vaccinations to learn about the positive effects of being vaccinated.
A Vietnamese doctor injects a patient.
Doctors at work.
Children lying on their stomachs to receive intramuscular vaccines in their buttocks.
A group of villagers posed with their vaccine cards.