Finding every case

The Government of India threw its full weight behind the National Smallpox Eradication Program.  In urban areas, a carefully organized massive publicity campaign was an essential component several days in advance of World Health Organization team visits.

Posters were created in native languages which encouraged vaccinations, especially of young children.  Even Prime Minister Indira Ghandhi was involved in the marketing effort.  She sent announcements to several Indian states exhorting their citizens to cooperate with the programs.

Perhaps the most unusual publicity method was the reward of 100 rupees ($12) for the report of any fresh smallpox case. The reward was gradually increased as the incidence of smallpox declined.  It was highly effective.  Eleven percent of smallpox outbreaks were reported by the general public in 1975, compared with only 2.6 percent in 1973.   The rewards were widely publicized using loudspeakers, radio and television announcements, posters, newspaper advertisements, and writing on public walls.  However, word of mouth communication continued to remain the most effective means to find new cases.


Announcement of the Anti-Smallpox Campaign

Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi supports the anti-smallpox campaign. (1973)

Reward poster

Rewards were offered for the report of new smallpox cases. (1974-1976)

Report from district and state surveillance team

Roughly 92% of the villages in Singhbhum district were visited during a one week period. (1975)

Training the health workers

Zero smallpox