Underrated in America: Vaccines


I get my flu shot each fall without really thinking about the miracle it represents. In an age where our health worries focus on osteoporosis, impotence and incontinence, it's easy to forget what horrors our routine vaccinations have removed from our consciousness.

When I was very young, the U.S. was in the midst of a polio panic. In 1952, 58,000 cases were reported, leaving thousands dead and tens of thousands to suffer with some degree of paralysis. Thanks to the Salk vaccine, released in 1955, by 1961 this number had dropped to 161, and children were once again free to go swimming and play together.

Back then, we all shared measles, which I thought was a fairly innocuous rite of passage. Did you know that, over the past 150 years, an estimated 200 million people have been killed by the measles? Thanks to a vaccine, it has all but been eradicated in the U.S.

Don't miss the rest of our series on Underrated In America!