Nigerians Recall Mass Jet Injector Vaccinations As Children

April 20, 2017

Nigeria 1969

During the 1960s and 1970s, mass vaccination campaigns sought to eradicate diseases such as polio, measles, and smallpox from the face of the earth. Vaccination teams from the US Public Health Service, the World Health Organization, and the non-profit Christian organization, Brother’s Brother Foundation, trekked the globe to educate foreign governments and medical personnel, isolate infectious pathogens, and to immunize all.

These medical expeditions have been well documented within government reports and photographs. Autobiographies by several health officials have also recorded the journeys. Yet never have these events been told by those who received the vaccinations. For the first time ever, those who received mass jet injector vaccinations in Nigeria as children tell what they remember.
What do you remember most of about the mass jet injector vaccinations?

“I remember getting my inoculation in 1968/69 in elementary school in Ibadan!! Gosh, I still remember it so vividly because it was so painful, and it left that unique mark,” reminisced a gentleman.

“Yes, I’m looking at the scar on my left arm,” said another gentleman.

“We called it ‘numba’ in primary school,” said a lady.

Another lady said, “Numba…like a bite mark on your arm!”

“The injections were quite painful then,” another gentleman recalled. “I still remember the horror on our faces when the health workers arrived at our school in 1975 and our headmaster delivered us unto their hands. I have never seen so many crying children in such close proximity—we were all united in terror.”

Another gentleman said, “Still on my left arm. Everyone collected ‘numba.’”

“Frightful,” declared yet another man. “The health workers hold that thing like it’s a pistol. The searing pain and the sure abscess that follows, who can forget!… some of the pupils running away and refusing to be vaccinated, chiefly as a result of the pains. We were vaccinated—this was in the late 1970s—against such diseases like polio, measles, and yellow fever.”

Nigerian child is receiving a smallpox vaccination

Was the whole village and community vaccinated all at once? I asked.

“The vaccination was done at the village level and it usually took 1 to 2 days to complete before they moved onto the next village within the community. The event took place at the village primary school, hence the pupils were first vaccinated before adults,” said the first gentleman.

Were there any fears with use of the jet injector?

“To the best of my knowledge, there was none, aside from the pains associated with the vaccination and the attendant abscess the most often (would say up to 80% developed into abscess).”

Another gentleman wittily reflected, “ A man was receiving what he will never understand.”

Many photographs captured looks of concern and apprehension and rightfully so. What were they to think as unknown foreigners arrived in their village with an unheard of device that resembled a pistol to prevent them from an unheard of disease? Success of the vaccination campaign was only the result of local officials who ensured the injections were safe.

Nigerian children were photographed as they received vaccination

Are these devices still used in your childhood village today? If not, when was the last time you remember jet injectors being used?

“The last time I remembered it being used was around 1981 and I can’t remember it still being used afterwards. Reason would be that the community’s clinic was ‘upgraded’ to a cottage hospital and most of the immunizations for kids took place there.”

Although vaccinated as young children, the experiences were so unique and fearful that they were forever imprinted within their memories. In fact, almost all who have been inoculated with these devices have not forgotten the experience.

* Names were withheld for privacy.

© Shaun Brown and Jet Infectors, 2016 – 2018

Babies and Breadwinners: 1961 Mass Polio Vaccination Campaign

April 4, 2017

Paralytic poliomyelitis, most commonly referred to as polio, once immobilized a nation in fear as the disease paralyzed children with no known cause. In the early 1950s, there were roughly 20,000 cases of polio diagnosed per year. In 1952, at the height of the epidemic, the disease took more than 3,000 lives (Sokol, 1997). Thankfully within the same year, Jonas Salk created an effective vaccine. In 1955, after almost three years of testing, the Salk polio vaccine was announced to the world. Salk’s vaccine was a medical relief to the nerves of many.

Babies and Breadwinners

Babies and Breadwinners was a government film documenting the mass Polio Vaccination Campaign of 1961. “This title referred, of course, to those two poorly immunized groups, the children five years and under and the young adults,” wrote Dr. Maynard Mires in the Delaware Medical Journal (Mires, 1961).

The film, produced by the Communicable Disease Center (more presently known as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention), was to be informative and encouraging in the implementation of mass vaccination campaigns across the nation.

Set in the city of Columbus, Georgia, the film documented the first of three phases of a vaccination campaign. Thirty-eight locations were set-up across the city over eight days. Vaccinations were free. People walked up, were vaccinated with the Hypospray Multidose Jet Injector, and then continued on their merry way. “A simple injection means polio protection.”


In this photo, taken the day of the event, a physician inspects the Hypospray Multidose Jet Injector.

1961 Babies and Breadwinners - Physician Inspects Hypospray
(Global Health Chronicles)


Babies and Breadwinners- 1961

The film also documented the lack of sterilization between jet gun inoculations. In the photo above, taken from the event in downtown Columbus, the vaccinator held the Hypospray Jet Injector in one hand and appropriately held the patient’s arm with his other hand. The jet injector was attached to a motor enclosed in a carrying-case on the table. Also placed upon the table, near the center, is a vaccine vial and a red protective cap to cover the jet injector nozzle when not in use. Upon the far right side of the table is a microphone belonging to the cameraman in the black suit. There appears to be a material object on the bench below the table, although this object remains unclear. As the video demonstrates, a nurse standing to the right side wipes the patient’s arm with cotton dipped in acetone. The jet injector, however, was used consecutively person after person. The nozzle was never wiped in between vaccinations.

1961 Babies and Breadwinners- turning of the lever

Video footage also captured vaccinators reaching toward the nozzle following injections. A snapshot of the video, above, demonstrates this action. A 1966 self-instructional lesson by the CDC, titled “Jet Injector Operation, Model K3,” pictured below, informs vaccinators how to use the Hypospray Multidose Jet Injector and explains this behavior. Before administering an injection the vaccinator must turn the cocking lever from the “Fill” position to the “Injection” position. Then immediately following the injection, the cocking lever must be turned-back to the “Fill” position to allow the vaccine vial to fill the drug reservoir with the next dosage.

1966 CDC- Hypospray Multidose Jet Injector Instructions

The video footage also captured a disregard for protocol. The CDC’s operating instructions stated, “Squeeze trigger for full THREE SECONDS (count: ‘One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three’).” Yet the film repeatedly documented vaccinators holding the jet injector for only one second, as shown in the clip below. Also note the nozzle was never wiped or cleansed in between injections.


In two instances the video captured the wiping of the injection site immediately following the jet injection. The incidents were unique as the video demonstrates the majority of the vaccinees did not have their arm wiped. In the following clip, a nurse cleansed a girl’s arm with cotton dipped in acetone whereupon a vaccinator administered an injection. Afterwards the nurse immediately wiped the girl’s arm, in a downward motion, with the same cotton. (You may need to watch twice to capture the motion). The girl then clutched her arm as her mother carried her away. The nurse discarded the dirty cotton which accidentally landed on the table. Then the next child stepped forward to receive a vaccination. The jet injector nozzle was never wiped or cleansed.


In another clip, a boy, appearing in the foreground, had just received a vaccination. Holding a piece of cotton within his left hand he wiped the injection site on the deltoid area of his right arm.


So why was the post-injection wiping important?

If the jet gun was held firmly against the vaccinee’s skin, and immediately following the injection there was a need to wipe the injection site of the vaccinee, then whatever was on the vaccinee’s arm was also on the nozzle of the jet injector. Despite the fact that we do not know what was being wiped, whether the substance was blood, splash-back of vaccine after after penetrating the outer layer of skin or a combination thereof, this footage demonstrates at that time the jet injector was contaminated and no longer sterile.

In our series, Faulty Design Created Inherent Risks, Mitragotri (2006) demonstrates through microcinematography the nozzle becomes contaminated through a phenomenon known as splash-back.

The complete video can be accessed here.


  • (Global Health Chronicles) “Hypospray Inspection,” The Global Health Chronicles, accessed September 5, 2017,
  • (Mitragotri, 2006) Mitragotri S. Current status and future prospects of needle-free liquid jet injectors. Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 5:543–548, 2006.
  • (Mires, 1961) MH Mires. Babies and Breadwinners. Delaware Medical Journal. September 1961. pp. 270-272.
  • (Sokol, 1997) Sokol B. Fear of Polio in the 1950s. [Online Article] Available at:


© Shaun Brown and Jet Infectors, 2016 – 2018
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