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Doctor Armand Frappier: a prominent figure in vaccination in Canada

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One goal: to fight the white plague

Armand Frappier was born in 1904 in the village of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. A brilliant student, he was as passionate about chemistry as he was about music. The loss of loved ones will lead her to devote her life to the fight against tuberculosis.

Host Charles Tisseyre paints a portrait of this important researcher in this report broadcast at History of science August 27, 2000.

History of science, August 27, 2000

Tuberculosis killed Armand Frappier’s mother when he was only 19 years old. He also loses his brother and his grandmother as a result of this disease. During the 1930s, tuberculosis was baptized the white plague and wreaks havoc on the poorest communities.

Armand Frappier enrolled in the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Montreal in 1924. He financed his studies by founding the orchestra The Carabins in which he plays the violin. The group performs at Dupuis frères, in restaurants and on the cruise ships of the Canadian Steamship Line.

Dr. Frappier will specialize in microbiology and study in American laboratories after becoming a Rockefeller Foundation scholar. He will also stay at the Institut Pasteur in Paris.

In the early 1930s, the Institut Pasteur developed the BCG vaccine against tuberculosis. The vaccine is named after its founders: Drs Calmette and Guérin. The live vaccine, prepared from an attenuated strain of bovine tuberculosis bacillus, remains highly controversial in North America.

Determined to eradicate the disease in Canada, Armand Frappier reported a strain of BCG from the Institut Pasteur in 1933. He continued his work, despite some criticism. It will develop and sell tuberculosis vaccines to hospitals.

Quebec will become the basin best covered by the anti-tuberculosis vaccination, still disputed elsewhere in the world.

A quote from Charles Tisseyre

The foundation of the Montreal Institute of Hygiene and Microbiology

It was in 1938 that Dr. Frappier founded the Montreal Institute of Hygiene and Microbiology, affiliated with the University of Montreal.

The Institute took part in the war effort when, from 1939, it took charge of the freeze-drying (cold drying) of blood serum for the Canadian Armed Forces and for its allies. 150,000 units of serum will be sent to the Red Cross.

In the early 1950s, the Institute’s research focused on polio. This terrible disease which attacks the lungs and sometimes paralyzes those who are affected for life.

Téléjournal, March 15, 1956

Frappier has the support of Premier Duplessis to develop vaccines. In this extract from March 15, 1956, he thanked the government for granting a grant for the development of the Montreal Institute of Microbiology and Hygiene.

The money will be used to build new laboratories in Laval-des-Rapides, where animals needed for research can be raised directly on the Institute’s grounds. The government is also funding the production of the Salk polio vaccine.

On the show Today of November 21, 1968, the journalist Jean Ducharme speaks with Dr Armand Frappier, Dr Adrien G. Borduas and Dr Vytautas Pavilanis on the research carried out at the Institute.

Today, November 21, 1968

At the time, the work allowed 2 million vaccinations per year in the country. 150 researchers and technicians worked on vaccine production.

Armand Frappier has played a fundamental role both in the training of doctors and in raising the awareness of politicians on questions of hygiene, public health and the financing of biomedical research.

We gave our province all the vaccines it needed, and in times of emergency it can count on the Institute.

A quote from Armand Frappier

The Institute of Microbiology and Hygiene has also manufactured vaccines against whooping cough, measles and influenza.

Dr. Frappier has received many awards throughout his career and after his retirement, which he took in 1974, at the age of 70. The Institute of Microbiology and Hygiene was renamed Institut Armand-Frappier in 1975.

Despite its solid reputation in Canada and abroad, the Institut Armand Frappier was dismantled in the early 1990s and ceased production of vaccines. In 1998, it was attached to the National Institute for Scientific Research (INRS).

The Armand Frappier Center linked to INRS is now interested in prevention and in finding solutions to public health problems such as cancer, antibiotic resistance and Alzheimer’s disease.

On March 21, 2012, Dr. Armand Frappier was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in Toronto. He died on December 18, 1991 at the age of 87.

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