The National Immunization Awareness Month is held annually in August, focusing on the importance of immunization at all ages (see https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niam/index.html)
I was born in April 1964, in Birmingham, West Midlands. My parents and grandparents had lived through the Second World War and witnessed the formation of the National Health Service and the Welfare State. I have memories (admittedly dim) of visiting clinics to obtain vaccinations. The elimination of polio, rickets and tuberculosis were key public heath priorities at the time.
In the autumn of 1975 I started secondary school. This felt like a challenge, as my contemporaries and I were moving from a small junior and infant school to Dartmouth, built for 1,500 pupils. Folklore had it there were two main challenges: avoiding being bullied, and navigating the dreaded “TB jab”, described as a “huge needle” of veterinary proportions.
Needless to say, both of these were somewhat exaggerated and having the TB jab was less traumatic than the senior kids made out. Talking to parents, and particularly grandparents, I soon realised just what a huge problem TB had been earlier in the century.
In more recent times, the controversy over the combined MMR jab, which many parents were refusing for their children, and the anti-vaccination sentiments which have surfaced over COVID in some ways remind me of the early days of immunization.
The development of vaccines presents a constant challenge for scientists, as does the immunization of populations for governments.
Below is a selected bibliography of works on vaccines and immunization:
Brunton, D. The politics of vaccination : practice and policy in England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, 1800-1874 – Rochester, NY : University of Rochester Press, 2008 (Rochester studies in medical history) Library location: HI.D.42
Link, Kurt. The vaccine controversy : the history, use and safety of Vaccinations – London : Praeger, 2005 Library location: HI.AD
Hotez, Peter J. Vaccines did not cause Rachel’s autism : my journey as a vaccine scientist, paediatrician, and autism dad – Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018. Library location: HI.AY
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Public Health Forum (4th : 1994). Vaccination and public health. Edited by Felicity Cutts and Peter Smith – Chichester, Wiley. 1994. Library location: HI.AD
Kerns, Thomas A. Jenner on trial : an ethical examination of vaccine research in the age of smallpox and the age of AIDS – Latham, University Press of America, 1997. Library location: HG.AQ