Strangling Angel

Strangling Angel : Diphtheria and Childhood Immunization in Ireland

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This book is the first comprehensive history of the anti-diphtheria campaign and the factors which facilitated or hindered the rollout of the national childhood immunization programme in Ireland. It is easy to forget the context in which Irish society opted to embrace mass childhood immunization. Dwyer shows us how we got where we are. He restores Diphtheria's reputation as one of the most prolific child-killers of nineteenth and early twentieth-century Ireland and explores the factors which allowed the disease to take a heavy toll on child health and life-expectancy. Public health officials in the fledgling Irish Free State set the eradication of diphtheria among their first national goals, and eschewing the reticence of their British counterparts, adopted anti-diphtheria immunization as their weapon of choice. An unofficial alliance between Irish medical officers and the British pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome placed Ireland on the European frontline of the bacteriological revolution, however, Wellcome sponsored vaccine trials in Ireland side-lined the human rights of Ireland's most vulnerable citizens: institutional children in state care. An immunization accident in County Waterford, and the death of a young girl, raised serious questions regarding the safety of the immunization process itself, resulting in a landmark High Court case and the Irish Medical Union's twelve-year long withdrawal of immunization services. As childhood immunization is increasingly considered a lifestyle choice, rather than a lifesaving intervention, this book brings historical context to bear on current debate.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 224 pages
  • 163 x 239 x 22.86mm | 476.27g
  • Liverpool, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1786940469
  • 9781786940469

Table of contents

Acknowledgements ix

Introduction 1

1 Aetiology of Diphtheria in Pre-independence
Ireland 13

The `Strangling Angel' in Ireland 16

Know Thine Enemy 27

2 Diphtheria `Arrives' 32

Diphtheria in Cork City 36

Public Health Reform in the Irish Free
State 41

The Development of Antitoxin as an

Anti-diphtheria Prophylactic 45

3 Anti-diphtheria Immunization in the Irish Free
State 51

Anti-diphtheria Immunization in Dublin 63

J. C. Saunders Anti-diphtheria Intervention
in Cork City 70

4 Developing Burroughs Wellcome Alum-Toxoid 77

Vaccine Trials in Cork City 82

Further Vaccine Trials 90

5 The Ring College Immunization Disaster 101

Inquest at Ring 110

Preparing for Battle 120

6 O'Cionnfaola v. the Wellcome Foundation and
Daniel McCarthy 126

After Ring 134

7 Towards a National Immunization Programme 144

Dublin 153

End of an Epidemic 163

Conclusion 170

Bibliography 178

Index 195
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Review quote

`Dwyer gives an in-depth account of the uneven and fitful
steps towards active public health interventions in Ireland, examining the
central role that individuals, from frontline staff to city medical officers,
played in this move. He demonstrates convincingly that diphtheria was epidemic
throughout the state and far more prevalent than the official public health
statistics indicated.'

Oisin Wall, Social History of
Medicine `Dwyer's
work comfortably takes its place among the timely and burgeoning international
literature on the history of vaccination and immunization, along with that
devoted to the broader development of public health policy and programs.'

J.T.H. Connor, Canadian Bulletin of
Medical History `Michael Dwyer charts the history of diphtheria in Ireland
with a strong focus on the controversies that arose when immunization was
introduced in the early twentieth century [...] Strangling Angel is among the most significant medical history
monographs that has emerged from Ireland in recent years.'

Ian Miller, Journal
of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 'The documentary research in this book cannot be faulted. It includes painstaking examinations of wide-ranging archival materials as well as making extensive use of contemporary governmental, popular and scientific publications. ... Altogether, this is a promising first book from a talented scholar.'
Oisin Wall, Social History of Medicine Reviews
'Strangling Angel is well written, interesting and thoroughly researched, drawing on a variety of new primary sources. It is not a history of immunisation in the British Isles, but differences in approach between progressive Ireland and Britain are highlighted. It will be useful to medical, political and social historians with an interest in infections and their prevention.'
William Dibb, British Society for the History of Medicine
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About Michael Dwyer

Michael Dwyer is Lecturer in the School of History at University College Cork.
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