A look back at the city's last mass inoculation in 1976


by Doug Proffitt


Posted on November 11, 2009 at 8:08 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 11 at 8:08 PM

For some people Wednesday’s swine flu clinic brings back memories of the 1976 effort nationwide to vaccinate people.

But that year, the swine flu vaccine itself became a problem.

Despite the fears, in Louisville, people lined up back then. Until now, it was the largest inoculation effort in the city and we learned more about how it worked when we discovered WHAS-TV’s film coverage of the shots.

The color film from 1976 reveals one thing, the device you got your swine flu shot from resembles something they would use to tranquilize big game animals with but people lined up in Louisville.

Back then WHAS-TV Reporter Bob Johnson found people worried about both the swine flu and the vaccine that same year, 1976 several hundred people in the U.S. had developed a neuromuscular disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome.

After getting the shot, 25 deaths were reported. In Louisville, people were aware of the possible connection, but got their shots anyway. Louisville wasn't as large in 1976, but this vaccination effort was a huge undertaking.

And in 1976, the local health department told WHAS-TV about the risks of getting the shot. To this day, researchers say they really don't know what happened for sure with the 1976 swine flu shots and why people got the neuromuscular syndrome and some died.

A federal study looked into it in 2003 and found no direct link to the shot, but suggested that it could have had some implications.

From the current vaccination clinics, there have been no reports of any severe reactions or illness just sore arms.