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Vaccines Timeline


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1950s-1960s   1970s   1980s   1990s   2000s

50 Years of Vaccine Progress (background information)

  1955 Inactivated polio vaccine licensed.
  1959 World Health Assembly passes initial resolution calling for global smallpox eradication.
  1961 Monovalent oral polio vaccine licensed.
  • Trivalent oral polio vaccine licensed.
  • The first measles vaccine licensed.
      1964 Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), designed to provide CDC with recommendations on vaccine use, holds its first meeting.
      1964-1965 20,000 cases of Congenital Rubella Syndrome occurred during the largest rubella epidemic in the United States.
      1966 U.S. Measles eradication goal enunciated.
      1967 Mumps vaccine licensed.
      1969 Rubella vaccine licensed—57,600 rubella cases reported this year.
  • Routine smallpox vaccination ceases in the United States.
  • Measles, Mumps, Rubella vaccine licensed.
      1976 Swine Flu: largest public vaccination program in the United States to date; halted by association with Guillain-Barré syndrome.
      1977 Last indigenous case of smallpox (Somalia).
      1979 Last case of polio, caused by wild virus, acquired in the United States.
      1980 Smallpox declared eradicated from the world.

    Hepatitis B vaccine becomes available.

      1986 The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act establishes a no-fault compensation system for those injured by vaccines and requires adverse health events following specific vaccinations be reported and those injured by vaccines be compensated.
      1988 Worldwide Polio Eradication Initiative launched; supported by WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International, CDC and others.
      1989-1991 Major resurgence of measles in the United States—55,000 cases compared with a low of 1,497 cases in 1983. Two-dose measles vaccine (MMR) is recommended.
  • The Vaccine Adverse Reporting System (VAERS), a national program monitoring the safety of vaccines established.
  • Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) polysaccharide conjugate vaccine licensed for infants.

      1991 Hepatitis B vaccine recommended for all infants.
  • Polio elimination certified in the Americas.
  • Vaccines for Children (VFC) program established to provide access to free vaccines for eligible children at the site of their usual source of care.
  • First harmonized childhood immunization schedule endorsed by ACIP, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics is published.
  • Varicella vaccine licensed; before the vaccine an estimated 4 million infected annually in the United States.
  • Hepatitis A vaccine licensed.
      1996 Acellular pertussis vaccine licensed for use in young infants.
      1998 First rotavirus vaccine licensed.
  • Rotavirus vaccine withdrawn from the market as a result of adverse events.
  • FDA recommends removing mercury from all products, including vaccines. Efforts are begun to remove thimerosal, a mercury based additive, from vaccines.
  • Worldwide measles initiative launched; 800,000 children still die from measles annually. Measles declared no longer endemic in the United States.
  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine recommended for all young children.
      2001 September 11 results in increased concern of bioterrorism. The United States establishes a plan to re-introduce smallpox vaccine if necessary, a vaccine thought never to be needed again.
  • Measles declared no longer endemic in the Americas.
  • First live attenuated influenza vaccine licensed for use in 5–49 year old persons.
  • First Adult Immunization Schedule introduced.
      2004 Inactivated influenza vaccine recommended for all children 6–23 months of age.

    Rubella declared no longer endemic in the United States.


    50 Years of Vaccine Progress

    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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    Photo credit - Photography provided by The March of Dimes, Rotary International, and the Public Health Image Library of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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    This page last modified on April 29, 2005

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