Miracle in Tonga (USPHS, 1965)

Miracle in Tonga (USPHS, 1965)

[Music] [Narrator:] Far out in the South Pacific,
a thousand miles North of New Zealand, the long swells burst on the reefs of Tonga. Once a port of call for wandering Yankee whalers, this island group lies apart from regular
trade routes. So for centuries, its people have been relatively
isolated with only occasional visitors and a small
trade in copra and bananas. But times are changing in Tonga. New markets for copra and bananas have opened
in Asia. [Music] There is a Tongan Merchant Marine with modern vessels built in Europe. The planes will bring more and more tourists
to the friendly islands. More and more islanders will leave to study
in other countries. Under the leadership of Her Majesty Queen
Salote and Prince Tungi, the Prime Minister, Tonga’s relative isolation is disappearing. The native government has been at once prudent
and progressive. Its benevolent rule has brought prosperity without destroying traditional customs. Looking forward to the expansion of trade, the government carefully considered the effect of increased contact with the outside world. It was realized that there was a very definite
and growing threat to the Tongan people. The population was totally unprotected against
smallpox, and smallpox is a disease which is rampant
throughout Southeast Asia. This was Tonga’s problem, to vaccinate a highly vulnerable population of 70,000 against smallpox; to do it effectively, to do it immediately,
to do it inexpensively. [Music and singing.] [Narrator:] Our party came to Tonga in March of 1964 in response to a request by the Tongan government. There were five of us from the U.S: four physicians
and an equipment specialist. We were going to evaluate a new, rapid, and
inexpensive means of giving smallpox vaccinations. Working together with a team of Tongan medical personnel, we would begin immediately in Nuku’alofa,
the capital city, population 20,000. We planned to immunize everyone in Nuku’alofa
within a few days. The instrument that would make it possible: the jet injector gun. This device can deliver injections as fast
as you can pull the trigger. The gun is simple to operate, and you’re sure of getting the proper amount of vaccine under the skin. The gun is operated by a foot pedal; you press the pedal and then pull the trigger. This model is equipped with a new feature:
an intradermal nozzle for giving injections into the superficial layers of the skin, as
you must with smallpox vaccine. The gun is completely portable. The whole package weighs 12 pounds. Knowing that something would have to be done to get the populace interested in the immunization trial, we had prepared some informational material: films and posters telling about the dangers
of smallpox and the importance of vaccination. We delayed most of the actual planning until
after we arrived. Our Tongan associates worked with us closely. They were very eager to help, and we could not have gotten far without their
excellent advice and assistance. From the very beginning, and throughout our stay, we were given a courteous and friendly reception. The first evening we were the guests of Prince
Tungi. The Prince had personally flown to Atlanta,
Georgia in February of 1964 to discuss the problem of immunizing his people
against smallpox. At the Communicable Disease Center, he met with Public Health Service officers
of the smallpox unit. It was a propitious meeting, for the unit
had just completed its study of intradermal vaccination with the new gun
developed by the Army. And the most suitable place in the world for
an evaluation of this new method was Tonga, a progressive country with a small, intact
population and no history of smallpox. During the Prince’s visit to the Center, we had photographed him getting his smallpox
vaccination. This film was to be shown everywhere we went
to encourage those who would be reluctant. The people enjoyed it immensely. The next morning the vaccination drive began. The posters with our message were put up in
Nuku’alofa: Smallpox is a dread disease. Vaccination prevents
smallpox. Every effort was made to inform the people
about the vaccinations and where they could go to get them. It did not take long for them to understand
that this was being done for their protection and they cooperated wholeheartedly. One of the things we immediately realized was the importance of getting local people
to help. The teacher knows her pupils. She’s the best one to reassure them, to keep
track of them. This laboratory technician checks the children
for skin rashes or lesions. We taught them our methods and they performed
many of the vaccinations themselves. The Tongans took care of the administrative
work. Their cooperation was invaluable. We were accomplishing a lot more than just
an immunization drive. We were sharing medical and public health
knowledge and experience. [Music] The children were curious, not altogether eager for the vaccination, but
well-behaved. They were expecting something unpleasant. One look at the gun and they were sure it
was going to be unpleasant. But the gun is painless. It just looks a little unfriendly, that’s
all. We used a dose of one tenth cc of vaccine,
diluted 50 to 1 here. In some other places we used a 10 to 1 dilution
for comparison. Acetone was used to swab the arm. It dries faster than alcohol and prevents the intradermal head from slipping on the skin. Prince Tungi’s daughter took her vaccination along with the others. Then, downtown where we took care of the government
workers, policemen, nurses. For the rest of the week we went around Nuku’alofa setting up at convenient locations, and processing thousands of people a day. After this, we went out into the countryside of the main island where we attended a once-a-year
event, the field day for all the high schools. It’s quite an occasion and a major sports
attraction. When he was younger, Prince Tungi held the
pole-vaulting championship for 20 years. The Tongans are a strong, healthy people. They have no problem with heart disease, malaria,
yellow fever, or cholera. [Music] We took advantage of the field day to vaccinate
people in the crowd. We vaccinated about 1,000 people that day. At night we were busy centrifuging blood samples, going over records, and periodically disassembling
and cleaning the gun. With this remarkable instrument, a tremendous
amount of time and money was being saved. First, smallpox vaccine is expensive. With a gun you can dilute it 50 times. That’s 50 shots for the price of one. Second, the conventional method of vaccination, pricking concentrated vaccine into the skin,
requires trained and experienced people. Not so with the gun. In addition, the gun virtually eliminates the sterilization problems present in the
manual method. All you have to do with the gun is to sterilize
the internal parts. It’s then ready to administer thousands of
consecutive doses. After three and a half weeks on the main island, we divided up into three teams. One team remained on the main island to assess
the results of the vaccinations. The two other teams went to the northern and
central groups of islands to continue the immunization program. [Music] We went from island to island on a fish collection
boat owned by the government and used to collect
and refrigerate the scattered catches from Tongan fisherman. These boats are the only means of getting
from one place to another. We were out for three and a half weeks doing
a population of 10,000 people in the central island groups. And this was the smallest number of people, but it took us the longest time because of
the distance we had to travel. For carrying our equipment from village to
village, we used a little vehicle which was called
the ToteGote and was an attraction in itself. We went to two or three islands a day. Each evening we were the guests in a different
village. With us were a team of Tongans who were a
part of the medical department. There was a dentist, the chief medical officer,
and other personnel who utilized this trip to conduct their normal
medical calls around the island. In addition to giving protection against smallpox to the people of the outer islands, we were evaluating the effectiveness of the
diluted vaccine and the jet injector gun. To do this, we vaccinated a certain number
of people the conventional way, using the multiple pressure technique. We would later be able to compare the results
of both methods and determine the amount of protection various
dilutions of the vaccine were giving. We made two visits to each island. Once to give the injection, and the other to check the reactions two weeks later. [Music] Time after time we were paddled to and from our boat in a dugout canoe, somewhat loaded down, but with a comfortable two inches to spare. [Music] You can’t truly appreciate the significance
of the work done here without considering the millions still unprotected
against smallpox. We succeeded in immunizing 80 percent of the
available population of Tonga. We did it faster, far less expensively, and
more effectively than would have been possible with standard
manual techniques. The results were read. The vaccine had taken. 98.4 percent had satisfactory vaccinations,
consistently better than expected. An unparalleled success when you consider that it was carried out by such a small medical
team. Also, by observing a large population after
its first smallpox vaccination, we gained valuable scientific information
about immunity. [Music] We worked closely with the Tongan people. We shared a lot of knowledge and experience. But perhaps most important of all, Tonga and
the United States accomplished together something of great promise
to the world. For what was achieved here, on this small
Pacific island, can be extended to all people. [Music and singing.]

Author: Kevin Mason

31 thoughts on “Miracle in Tonga (USPHS, 1965)

  1. I remember this and few faces are still vivid in my mind, though a lot youthful. great work but we all had that sore on the upper arm & still confused why?
    Viliami Tupou

  2. This is really cuuuteee!! <3 and adorable!! watching the nature of Tonga long time ago before we even exist hahaha.. just So adorable <3 <3

  3. Mahalo kuo taimi pe ke 'aa hake 'ae Tonga ki he ngaahi loi moe fa'ufa'u 'ae kau papalangi kuo uesia ai ho tau kovi ai hotau kakai he ngaahi 'aho ni.

  4. European came with smallpox in the first place. Why????? to cut it short, 'cause of greed, world domination, power, control ……..spread this damn disease all over us then of course they happen to have the cure for it. Surprise, no no no. What a fabrication, then expect us to thank them for helping us eradicate this disease that we never had anything to do with it.

  5. Taimi fakaofa ia ki he kakai Tonga…thank you for sharing history of Tonga…now days heart disease kills more Tongans than smallpox

  6. i remember this so well. not only the smallpox shot but they draw blood from every kids at school. why don't you talk about those blood being drawn .just for a little toy to exercise your hand before you die from amount blood being drawn.

  7. are these the same vaccinations that are causing cancer??if so, cant tongans sue these doctors for their "experiment?"

  8. Not sure how a secluded island was in danger of contracting the smallpox disease. The film said that the Tongan people are a healthy and strong people. They were able to get along fine without the intervention of the outside world for thousands of years and all of a sudden just because some "educated" palangi folk come along and tell them they need to get this toxic vaccine they need it? It would be very interesting to see the data on the health of these poor souls after they were given the vaccine. Big billion dollar pharmacy companies make us think we're in danger of getting this and that and then they sell the drug and get rich. Ridiculous.

  9. So basically it was an experiment on our people. 100% of population on the main island vaccinated (20,000). Leading children to the slaughter makes me angry and sad.

  10. Just what I was looking for. A glimpse of Tonga and their peoples during a time when My mum would have been a little child growing up> In my opinion, this particular case of mass vaccination didn't have a sinister element to it, although we cannot rule it out one hundred percent? The CIA was conduction MK-Ultra on it's own people around the same time as this film was taken. The US government has also been involved with injecting diseases to people in Guatemala under the guise of the World Health Program during the 50's. I do think the the USA's involvement in the World Health initiatives has by far been a positive one, from River fly blindness in Africa to Polio eradication across the Globe>
    Interesting time of 1965, the USA is making a case for full ground troops to go to Vietnam and some happy Islanders are in the midst of the first wave of considerable numbers to leave for New Zealand, Hawaii, US mainland, and small small trickling into Australia as well. My great Uncle leaves for Hawaii around this time only to find himself a few years later fighting in the terrible war in Vietnam.

  11. love my Tongan people we are the most loving people in this world because for some reason all we do is smile when times is hard nd we help others even doe we are poor, Otua mo Tonga ko hoku tofi'a


  13. Those lying fools took all their man made sicknesses injecting into all Islanders in the Pacific now a days food air and water are full of poisons,they want full Control of everything including stealing LANDS etc

  14. This was a blood sucker i still have a scar in my arm from this it didnt heal until 8 weeks still remember

  15. don't forget the atomic bomb America dropped in the Marshall islands, natives there are still affected by the blast till this very day.

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