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Image Schoolboy being vaccinated against diphtheria in Brisbane, 1940

TLF ID R9656

This 1940 black-and-white photograph shows a young boy, not entirely at ease, being vaccinated against diphtheria at East Brisbane State School by the City Medical Officer of Health, Dr R Weaver. A woman dressed in white stands behind the boy and steadies his outstretched left arm for the injection. Medical implements and liquids in clear bottles can be seen on the table by the doctor.

Educational details

Educational value
  • The vaccination being given to the boy was part of an Australia-wide school-based immunisation program that was successful in sharply reducing the occurrence of diphtheria. The program was implemented throughout Australia between 1932 and 1936. In 1940, the year that this photograph was taken, medical practitioners notified local Queensland authorities of 598 cases, significantly less than the 2,841 reported in 1919-20.
  • In 1940 there were 24 deaths from diphtheria, all in the 0-9 age group, confirming the need for the extension of the program to younger children, which occurred during 1940. Diphtheria had been the most common infectious cause of death and one of the most dreaded diseases in Australia in the early years of the 20th century; 4,043 people had died between 1923 and 1935. Diphtheria is now rare in Australia and as of 2008 there have been no deaths since 1992.
  • Diphtheria is a highly communicable infection of the throat and nose. It can lead to difficulty in swallowing, breathlessness and suffocation. Caused by the 'Corynebacterium diphtheriae' bacterium, it is spread directly from person to person via airborne droplets or indirectly by contact with sores or articles soiled with nose or throat discharge. Treatment includes isolation and hospital admittance for appropriate care, antibiotics and the antidote to the toxin.
  • The effective prevention of diphtheria began with the discovery of an effective vaccine by Emil Adolf von Behring in 1913. In 1920 the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL) introduced diphtheria toxin-antitoxin into Australia. CSL had been established in 1916 to provide a rapidly available local supply of life-saving drugs and vaccines.
Year level

2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • Science
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Author
  • Name: Queensland Newspapers
  • Organization: Queensland Newspapers
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Name: Queensland Newspapers
  • Organization: Queensland Newspapers
  • Description: Author
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and State Library of Queensland, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements