This film shows a debate between Dr. John Neff, who is against the continuation of smallpox vaccination use, and Dr. Samuel Katz, who is in support of it. The debate is mediated by Dr. Paul Wehrle. The host welcomes the audience and Dr. Wehrle gives a brief background of smallpox in America, and then shows a world map that indicates where smallpox has been a problem and during what periods of time. Dr. Neff notes that the vaccine has eradicated smallpox, but argues that it is no longer necessary, the duration of immunity is too short, and there are too many complications and deaths as a result of it. He explains that only US travelers need to be vaccinated to protect the country. Dr. Katz gives his counterarguments, explaining that America is lucky to no longer suffer from smallpox and should maintain freedom from the disease by continuing to vaccinate children; we can't predict what might happen if we stop. He also explains that America cannot rely on vaccinating US travelers only, since there is the risk of the disease coming into the country through foreigners. He also asserts that if the US were to experience a smallpox outbreak, American doctors do not have enough experience with the disease to treat it efficiently. Dr. Neff again brings up the mortality rate as a result of the vaccine, and explains that the vaccine probably would not even pass the stringent requirements for vaccinations at the time. Dr. Katz claims that about half of the deaths as a result of the vaccine are preventable, since doctors are foolishly vaccinating people who are unhealthy or particularly vulnerable to disease. Dr. Neff explains that while they are preventable, doctors have known for a long time that they should not vaccinate these vulnerable people, yet still do, so there's no reason to believe that will change. Dr. Wehrle asks the doctors about rates of smallpox in vaccinated young adults rather than young children, and Dr. Neff explains that in the 2 million unvaccinated military recruits, there have been no cases of smallpox. Dr. Wehrle then thanks both doctors and gives a brief summary of the arguments made.
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Black and white
John M. Neff, Samuel Lawrence Katz, Paul F. Wehrle.
Received: (date unknown) as a donation from the National Library of Medicine, National Medical Audiovisual Center.