In his attestation papers, Percy agreed to be vaccinated for smallpox. He had been vaccinated in childhood, he told the officials, and he bore four vaccination marks on his left arm. The new vaccination was administered on March 9th, possibly by someone called Captain Andrews. He was also undergoing a series of “anti-typhoid inoculations. etc.” What the et cetera might include is hard to find out: Diptheria immunization was available, and the administration of tetanus serum to wounded soldiers saved many lives, but was diptheria considered a threat to Canadian soldiers? And it seems tetanus shots were not given as a general preventative, but only after wounds had been sustained during “combat on richly manured fields in Belgium and Northern France, [where] the use of modern explosives that produced deep tissue wounds and the intimate contact between the soldier and the soil upon which he fought.” (1) And since, to quote from the same article, “purification methods still needed to be improved,” some soldiers died from anaphylaxis as a result of receiving the serum. Even if that figure was only “tens to hundreds of men” as opposed to several hundred thousands, authorities might well have been reluctant to administer the serum to healthy soldiers.
Percy received three unspecified inoculations: February 28th, March 6th, and March 10th, followed by the Typhoid-paratyphoid A and B vaccine (TAB) on April 15th.
The common practice was to give two anti-typhoid inoculations about a week apart (which would fit the dates of February 28th and March 6th). Soldiers were placed on the sick list (relieved of drill) for 48 hours afterwards as their arms were very sore and swollen. They were also required to abstain from alcohol for 24 hours before and 48 hours afterwards. (2)
An Order in Council, passed September 27, 1917, required soldiers to be vaccinated, inoculated, and to undergo a compulsory blood test. Hitherto, refusal had been possible. In addition to smallpox and typhoid, soldiers were immunized against “cholera, dysentery and other infectious diseases.” (3)
(1) Wever Peter Cornelis and Leo van Bergen. “Prevention of Tetanus during the First World War.” Medical Humanities. 2012. 38(2):78-82. (Abstract)
(2) Derek Grout. Thunder in the Skies. A Canadian Gunner in the Great War. 2015. 56.
(3) A. Fortescue Duguid. Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War 1914-1919. General Series Vol. I From the Outbreak of War to the Formation of the Canadian Corps August 1914-September 1915. 1938. 75-76.
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