November 1, 2013
For Qu'Appelle aboriginal children in 1921:
The child-mortality rate surpassed the birth rate.
TB rates were twice the percentage of non-native children
Log huts were swapped for frame houses.
New wells were dug.
Families were given chickens and garden seed.
Extra nutrition was provided to children and expectant mothers.
/ Tuberculosis death rates were halved.
"It was clear that with slightly better living conditions, tuberculosis could be dealt with," Lux said. "But that's a fairly expensive proposition. The vaccine was a much cheaper alternative. This provided great hope for the Department of Indian Affairs and the National Research Council."
The vaccine had already been tested on working-class children in Montreal, but it was difficult keeping track of the test subjects. The Qu'Appelle aboriginals, however, couldn't leave their reserves without a permit. Since they had high rates of tuberculosis, researchers considered them just right for the job.
But the real lesson from the tests was the connection between dire living conditions and overall health.
609 children in the tests
"The most obvious result of the... vaccine trials was that poverty, not tuberculosis, was the greatest threat to native infants. The trial was a success, but unfortunately the patients died."
The vaccine was judged safe and remains in use in many places today. Living conditions on reserves remained unaddressed.
Village © Gina Boltz
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