Report on immunization in the camps

Vaccination Report summarizing how many inoculations were performed in the camp

This document covers all of the notes that Jean took for inoculation in the camps. It is a report for the Department of Public Health at Poston 1, which was finalized on September 10, 1945. The date on this report indicates that it was written near the disbanding of the Poston camp; therefore, it is a compilation of information on all of the inoculations performed throughout the duration of the camp and the number of camp internees qualified for an immunity certificate. An immunity certificate, or inoculation certificate, is still required to attend multiple public schools across the nation. Every immunization was recorded in a list. Jean also details the number of internees that suffer from physical defects, and lists the number of people from the defects. Jean proceeds to detail the number and the quality of births performed in the camp. She details the vaccinations given to the infants birthed in the camps and lists any peculiar physical conditions. In particular, there were a number of birth defects. Additionally, there is even recommended protocol for caring and delivering infants, as  birth rates in the camp were high She ends with a recommended inoculation protocol for any and all other camps, approved by the Department of Public Health. The importance of this document is that it underlines very clearly what medical and vaccination procedures the camps underwent. By cross-examining these medical records, it is possible to determine the quality of the medical facilities Poston 1 had. She also underlined how many births were in Poston 1, and listed the number of survivors and possible causes of death. Finally, she concludes with a concise report of recommendations for inoculation in all other internment camps.

Vaccination Poster during WWII

Vaccines are a key part of healthy American life. Ever since the invention of the smallpox vaccine in 1796, vaccines have been widely developed. By 1809, the first mandatory vaccination law was enacted in Massachusetts (Salmon). In California, where most of the Japanese Americans resided, vaccination was not yet mandatory. In addition, a large number of Issei, first generation Japanese immigrants, were unfamiliar with California’s inoculation policy, and therefore unable to obtain the vaccination. Vaccination is more effective the younger the child is, but due to high anti-vaccination sentiment in the 20th and 19th century, many parents chose to opt out of vaccinating their children. Smallpox was the most widespread virus, and the virus that had the most vaccines developed for it. Smallpox is a very harmful virus, as it quickly spreads and rapidly consumes a person, causing high fevers that bring upon death. Medical advances from World War I and World War II brought upon highly effective vaccines. Due to the advances of the smallpox vaccine,  “by 1942, less than 1,000 new cases of smallpox emerged in the United States” (Hodge). This is a remarkable trend in the increase of vaccination. However, multiple rural and foreign families did not receive vaccinations since they did not regularly visit hospitals. This in turn led to fewer check-ups and opportunities to become vaccinated. There were exceptions, but the general trend pointed towards a lack of vaccination.

Vaccination upon Entry


Vaccination in the Japanese American community rapidly rose by going to theinternment camps. The Japanese American community was the most vaccinated because of the government mandated inoculation policy for entering and residing in the camps. As shown from the Immunization Records document, there were a total of 1090 immunity treatments completed in just camp 1. The majority of those treated were children of high school age, making up almost half of the immunity treatments. A reason for this trend may be that some of the younger children had already received immunizations prior to entering the camp. When children reach high school age, they must undergo “re-immunization”, which is a process of administering booster shots to bolster their immune system. Additionally, it was more important to immunize children as they still went to school in the camps and would attend public schools outside of camp after internment had ended.

In the camps, most of the diseases immunized were the Smallpox virus and the Typhoid Virus. Typhoid Fever is still an ongoing disease, unlike the smallpox virus which has practically made extinct. The Typhoid vaccine, unlike the smallpox vaccine, requires a booster every 2 to 5 years. This is a possible explanation as to why children in the camps received more typhoid vaccines (219) than smallpox vaccines (195). The patients receiving the Typhoid vaccine were primarily children older than two years, which shows that study had already been done on the safety of the Typhoid vaccine. The Typhoid vaccine was a relatively new invention; it was not until the 1950s when the Typhoid vaccine was approved for widespread use. (Bockemühl).


Eric Dean



Bockemühl, J. “Typhoid vaccination yesterday and today.” Immun Infekt.. 11.1 (1983): 16-22. Web. 11 Apr. 2012.

CDC, . Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Typhoid Fever. Atlanta: Typhoid Fever, 2010. Web.

Hodge, James G. “School Vaccination Requirements: Historical, Social, and Legal Perspectives.” Center for Law and the Public’s Health at Johns Hopkins and Georgetown Universities. (2002): 1-24. Web. 1 Mar. 2012.

Salmon, Daniel A. “Mandatory Immunization Laws and the Role of Medical, Religious and Philosophical Exemptions.” Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. (2002): n.1-2 page. Web. 22 Mar. 2012.

Lucas, Sally Jean. “Sally Jean Lucas Papers.” Letter 19-25 of Report of all Enteries of All Nursery School Children. Ed. Sally Lucas Jean, Comp. UNC Archives and Ed. . 1st. Chapel Hill: UNC Archives, Folder 74: 19-25. Print.

U.S. Library of Medicine. “Typhoid Vaccine.” Medline Plus. Bethesda: The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, 1012. Web. 1 Mar 2012.

Jean Personal Letter November 8 1942


First page of Jean's letter

On Sunday, November 8, 1942, Sally Lucas Jean typed a personal letter while sitting outside her room in Poston to give an update to her “family and friends.” This three-page document deals with several specific aspects of life at Poston, including travel outside of camp, healthcare and education, poor weather, gardens, and her personal comforts and discomforts . Jean, as a director of health in the camp, spends much of this letter describing her dealings with the schools; through this, however, she reveals several other important aspects of camp life, including the lack of medical personnel, the health of school children, and the poor weather conditions that tended to disrupt camp life (1-3).

After her greeting and a short description of the weather, Jean dives into the substance of her letter by recounting some of her difficulties in setting up public health “protection” for school children.

This situation required attention to many phases which usually had been established previously. For instance, the public health department is manned by evacuees, most of whom are physicians but none of whom have had training in public health. It cannot be expected that they would be prepared to arrange procedures to prevent the spread of contagious and infectious diseases as their work in life has been to cure rather than to prevent.” (1)

Hence, Jean was able to find trained workers, but not people trained in the right areas. Despite these difficulties, however, Jean expresses enthusiasm over the healthy state of the children and the willingness of their parents to keep them that way:

“It is thrilling to have all mothers respond to an invitation to come to the school for these examinations. It is the first time in my experience that 100% of the mothers and teachers meet with the doctor… The children are in splendid condition and are well cared for. They have fewer defects than the average group this age.” (1)

The high rate of mothers’ involvement may have quite simply been due, at least in part, to the geographical proximity of the barracks to the schools, but from Jean’s perspective, the involvement of parents and teachers more than made up for the lack of experience of Poston’s public health workers.

Classroom building at the Poston I elementary school. Credit: Photo from National Park Service website

Poston had its own school system that encountered numerous unique struggles, not the least of which was the problematic weather. Whilediscussing the cold nights and mornings, she writes that “the teachers take the pupils out into the sun for games until it is warm enough to sit in the room” (2). Going outside “has its drawbacks because of the glare of books and paper” (2). Insulation and heating was evidently a serious problem if teachers needed to take their students outside in order to avoid the cold. This kind of disruption could only have harmed the quality of education at Poston.

Indeed, weather affected not only education but camp life as a whole for Jean. Even as Jean wrote her letter, it was too hot to sit outside but too cold to sit inside. She was concerned for the infants and young children in barracks, and on one cloudy sun cold was “unbearable” (2). She also encountered a strong sand-storm during her trip to Manzanar (3), and Poston dealt with similar issues; its three sections “were nicknamed ‘Roasten,’ ‘Toasten,’ and ‘Dustin’ by the incarcerees” (“Poston”). Compounded by poor building materials and structures, these adverse weather conditions served only to make camp life more trying for all involved.

The struggles with finding properly trained personnel were clearly not limited to the area of public health, nor were they Jean’s alone. For several days, she performed exams for parents of school children because of a lack of nurses. She also states how grateful she was to have a trained nutritionist on staff to help with the children’s food, implying these professionals were a rare luxury (1). Indeed, the biggest health problem in camp was “too few medical personnel, particularly nurses. The result was overworked doctors and nurses and delays in treatment” (PJD 164). An incarcerated orderly named George Yoshida went to work for the hospital in Poston because he “had taken biology and thought, ‘what the hell, it might be fun.’” Clearly, the supply of specifically trained medical personnel was low at Poston and elsewhere.

Jean portrayed teachers in a positive light in this letter by depicting their willingness to engage in the health of their students, and other sources concur with this positive view. Mas Hashimoto, a student interviewed years later, said that most of the teachers were young, dedicated, talented Nisei or Sansei who had college experience or degrees. Education, however, was often poor because of a lack of supplies. Hashimoto had neither paper nor pencils for “quite a while” (Hashimoto interview). Some camps lacked chairs and tables for months, and any technical or laboratory equipment was a fantasy. Most camps also needed certified teachers, particularly for higher grade levels and more advanced subjects (PJD 171); by the time of this letter, however, Poston seemed to have mitigated at least some of the problems with supplies, so Jean and others such as Hashimoto maintained a positive view of at least the elementary teachers. This serves to contribute to Jean’s positive outlook in this letter, despite the obvious difficulties she faced.


Seth Wynands



Works Cited

“Poston.” Ed. Geoff Froh. Densho. Densho, n.d. Web. 1 March 2012.

George Yoshida, interviewed by Alice Ito and John Pai, February 18, 2008, Densho.

Mas Hashimoto, interviewed by Tom Ikeda, July 30, 2008, Densho.

Letter to Family and Friends Nov. 8, 1942, Folder 75, in the Sally Lucas Jean papers #4290,

Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at

Chapel Hill.,217362,217526,217503

NPS photo: