The Story of Dr. Guilford B. Reed and his Influenza Vaccine

Dr. Guilford Bevil Reed was accomplished indeed– during his lifetime, he was Captain in the Canadian Army Medical Corps at the Queen’s Military Convalescent Hospital, developed the Kingston Biological Warfare Laboratory, and was elected President of the Royal Society of Canada, among many other accomplishments! 

A lesser known part of his work began while Dr. Reed was head of Queen’s University’s Department of Bacteriology during the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919. With the help of two research assistants, Dr. Reed developed a flu vaccine from the bacteria in naso-pharyngeal swabs of people infected with the Spanish Flu. The results were encouraging– in the eight weeks following October 1st, 1918, 45.3% of unvaccinated medical students in his test group  got the flu, while only 12% of vaccinated students did. Among a test group of military personnel, 21.6% of unvaccinated men caught the flu, but only 0.8% of vaccinated men did!

Unfortunately, by the time Dr. Reed’s findings were published in 1921, the Spanish Flu pandemic was over, and Dr. Reed’s work in the area did not continue. It would only be in the 1930s that a viable Influenza vaccine was introduced, and the flu vaccines in the Museum’s collection were not made until the 1960s and 70s.

To learn more about Dr. Reed and his life and work, visit our blog at

Shaelyn Ryan<br>(Collections Technician/Assistant 2020-2021)
Shaelyn Ryan
(Collections Technician/Assistant 2020-2021)

Shaelyn Ryan is an undergraduate student Queen’s University, currently completing her forth (and final) year in the Bachelor of Arts History Program. Either as a Summer Student or Work-Study Student through Queen’s University, Shaelyn has helped catalogue and research many of the museum’s collection of artefacts as a Collections Technician (since 2018).

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