50 Years of Vaccine Progress
Poster version of vaccines timeline [PDF - 235KB]
See also: History of Vaccines website
The first measles vaccine licensed.
Measles, Mumps, Rubella vaccine licensed.
Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) polysaccharide conjugate vaccine licensed for infants.
Vaccines for Children (VFC) program established to provide access to free vaccines for eligible children at the site of their usual source of care.
Varicella vaccine licensed; before the vaccine an estimated 4 million infected annually in the United States.
Hepatitis A vaccine licensed.
FDA recommends removing mercury from all products, including vaccines. Efforts are begun to remove thimerosal, a mercury based additive, from vaccines.
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine recommended for all young children.
First live attenuated influenza vaccine licensed for use in 5–49 year old persons.
First Adult Immunization Schedule introduced.
On April 12, 1955, the Salk polio vaccine was declared “safe, effective and potent.” Since that date, great strides have been made in reducing and eliminating vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States. Diseases that were once common-place, such as polio, measles, mumps, diphtheria and rubella, are now only distant memories for most Americans. Today, there are few reminders of the suffering, disabilities, and premature deaths caused by diseases that are now preventable with vaccines.
Measles was once epidemic in the United States, with more than 55,000 cases and more than 120 deaths as recently as 1989–1991. Today, measles is no longer circulating in the United States or anywhere else in this hemisphere thanks to measles vaccine. Just two decades ago about 20,000 cases of invasive Hib disease occurred annually. A physician training in pediatrics today will likely never see a case of Hib meningitis, formerly the most common form of life-threatening bacterial meningitis in the United States. This year, rubella is no longer endemic in the U.S., but in the 1960s, many people witnessed first-hand the terrible effects of the rubella virus. During an epidemic between 1964 and 1965, about 20,000 infants were born with deafness, blindness, heart disease, mental retardation, or other birth defects because the rubella virus infected their pregnant mothers.
During the last 50 years, numerous changes in vaccine production and administration have resulted in safer vaccines. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has worked since 1964 to carefully review vaccine benefits and risks before making vaccine recommendations. The 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act resulted in a nation-wide reporting system, the Vaccine Adverse Reporting System, to monitor reactions to vaccines. The reports to this system were instrumental in the changing U.S. recommendations from the oral polio vaccine (OPV) to the injectable polio vaccine (IPV) ultimately eliminating the occasional health threats caused by the live virus contained in OPV. Vaccine safety remains a priority among government officials, health care providers and consumers. Vaccines, which do so much to minimize the burden of disease, must remain safe and effective.
April 12, 2005 marks the 50th anniversary of the first polio vaccine. Since the introduction of the vaccine, great strides have been made in significantly reducing the health impact of vaccine-preventable diseases among children and adults worldwide. Smallpox has been eradicated worldwide. Polio, measles and rubella have been eliminated in the U.S., and disease rates from vaccine-preventable diseases have been reduced by 99% in the United States. The last 50 years have given us much to celebrate but we must remember that there are still children, adolescents and adults who need the protection that vaccines provide. Our work is not done!
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This page last modified on October 19, 2006
Content last reviewed on October 19, 2006
Content Source: National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases