How the Vaccine Schedule in the U.S. Has Evolved Since the 1950s
If you’re in your 50s or younger, then you have grown up in the “era of mass vaccines”. Since the 1950s, the number of recommended and required vaccine shots has gone up by close to 414%. Now there are dozens of shots per year on the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) vaccine schedule – not just for children but for adults as well.
But how did the current CDC vaccine schedule come into existence in the first place? Here is a basic rundown of how U.S. vaccine policy has developed over the past 60 years.
Vaccines in the 1960s: Laying the Groundwork for Mass Vaccine Campaigns
Prior to the early 1960s, there was no formal nationwide vaccination program for Americans. Instead, vaccines were given mostly through private practice doctors. Vaccinations were usually paid for out of pocket, although some state and local governments provided block grants for local immunization programs.
All that began to change in 1962, when the Vaccination Assistance Act (VAA) went into effect. The VAA was significant in two ways. First, it gave the CDC the ability to initiate mass national vaccination campaigns. Secondly, it laid the foundation for on-going federal financial support to states and local governments as well as direct support, such as CDC Health Workers and actual vaccines.
“Booster shots” for vaccinations were not as common prior to the late 1960s as well. For example, as a child in the early to mid-1960s, you more than likely received a “whole-cell” vaccine dose of pertussis within the DTP (now called DTaP) as multiple vaccines, or as a single shot. This extra-strength immunization contained the entire inactivated bacterium.
Beginning in the 1970s, the dosages for pertussis and other diseases were weakened (meaning they contained less bacterium). This was done for safety reasons according to the CDC. The practice of administering several booster shots throughout a child’s life became common practice from about the mid-1970s onwards.
If you grew up in the 1960s, you may still recall your mom (or other guardian) trotting you over to the local health clinic to get your “doctor-recommended” round of shots. According to CDC records, in 1961, those recommendations looked like this:
– DTP. This was one of the first combination vaccines and included diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (aka whooping cough). Eventually, as immunization dosing amounts were tweaked, a series of 3-4 booster shots were recommended (see 1970s).
– Poliomyelitis (polio). The polio vaccine was developed in the 1950s and was on the vaccination schedule in the 1960s as a single shot (a different version of the polio vaccine is still offered today). It is estimated that approximately 100 million individuals received the polio vaccine between the late 1950s and early 1960s.
– Smallpox. Smallpox outbreaks were dangerous in previous years, but this disease wasn’t as much of a concern in the 1960s. Cases still appeared, however, especially outside of the United States, so a single shot smallpox vaccine was recommended during this decade. According to the World Health Organization, the last known case of smallpox was reported in 1977.
Vaccines in the 1970s: An Era of Transparency?
If you grew up in the 1970s, you may have had roughly 12-14 different kinds of shots throughout your early childhood. Not including the flu shot, your “recommended” childhood immunization schedule in 1974 might have looked like this:
– Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (DTP). The initial shot was given at 2 months and 3-4 subsequent boosters were given over the course of the next 4 to 6 years.
– Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV). An upgraded vaccine for polio was given in approximately 4 shots between 6 months and 6 years of age.
– Measles, Mumps, and Rubella. In 1974, these were given as single, individual shots which were staggered between 1 to 12 years of age (measles was usually administered at around 12 months, with the other two staggered afterwards, between 1 to 12 years of age). The well-known and controversial MMR combo vaccine was actually developed in the early 1970s, but vaccines for these three diseases were still given in single doses through mid-decade.
In the 1970s, the CDC and other public agencies began to establish bureaucratic ways to address some of the adverse effects that had come down the pipeline in previous decades. Regarding polio in particular, some individuals developed paralysis after being given the vaccine in the 1960s. There had also been some consumer concern regarding the newly-established flu vaccines as well as side effects from earlier versions of smallpox immunizations.
The CDC’s Monitoring System for Adverse Events Following Immunization (MSAEFI), which was established in 1976, was the forerunner of the current VAERS program. VAERS stands for Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.
During this time, responsibility for liability caused by adverse side effects to vaccines also switched from vaccine manufacturers to the U.S. government. As a result, the government developed Vaccine Information Statements that are available today for parents and other vaccine users. (Ref: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/)
Finally, 1976 also saw the first mass roll-out of a flu vaccine, the H1N1 (i.e. swine flu) immunization.
Vaccines in the 1980s: MMR In Full Swing
Because of the switch of control regarding vaccine safety regulations as well as the creation of the CDC’s MSAEFI program, lawsuits against DTP vaccine manufacturers in particular rose dramatically in the early 1980s. Many parents alleged cases of brain damage and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) as a result of the DTP vaccine.
By the mid-1980s, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA) created a “no-fault” compensation program for individuals who had been injured from universally-recommended vaccines. The Act also formerly created several other programs and offices, including VAERS, the National Vaccine Program Office, the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, and the Advisory Commission on Childhood Vaccines.
The “Vaccine Court” is a popular term for the Office of Special Masters of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, which administers the no-fault system for litigating vaccine injury claims without a sitting jury. Since the development of the NCVIA and its Vaccine Court, initial claims against manufacturers can no longer be filed within normal state or federal courts.
For children of the 80s, the number of vaccines was about the same as in the 1970s. A major change, however, was that now the MMR vaccine, which combined measles, mumps, and rubella into one shot, was in full usage. If you were a baby in the 1980s, you more than likely received an MMR shot at 15 months and again at 18 months of age.
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Vaccines in the 1990s: The CDC Childhood Vaccination Schedule Begins
The 1990s saw a lot of changes in U.S. vaccine policy. If you have children that were raised in this decade or you grew up in the 1990s yourself, you were affected by the following:
– The creation of an “official childhood vaccination schedule” for the United States, now updated annually. This schedule is promoted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control, as well as vaccine manufacturers and is approved by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on a yearly basis.
– The increased introduction of “smaller dose” vaccine strains, which are supposedly safer for the public, but also contain less bacterium so they require even more booster shots.
– The addition of Hepatitis B, Varicella Zoster (a form of herpes), and influenza shots to the childhood immunization schedule as well as an increasing emphasis on getting shots done at an earlier age (i.e. immediately after birth through 18 months).
– The introduction of the Thimerosal preservative in many “inactivated” vaccine vials began in the 1990s as well. The justification of adding this ethyl mercury-containing substance to vaccines was so it would prevent bacterial overgrowth in stored vaccines.
The debate continues to this day regarding the link between Thimerosal use and the exponential growth of childhood autism. The official word from the CDC regarding Thimerosal is the following:
“Thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative that has been used for decades in the United States in multi-dose vials (vials containing more than one dose) of medicines and vaccines. There is no evidence of harm caused by the low doses of thimerosal in vaccines, except for minor reactions like redness and swelling at the injection site. However, in July 1999, the Public Health Service agencies, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and vaccine manufacturers agreed that thimerosal should be reduced or eliminated in vaccines as a precautionary measure.”
At this point Thimerosal still exists in many vaccines, including various strains of influenza. Even vaccines that are considered “thimerosal free” can actually contain “trace amounts” of thimerosal. For a quick glance of the toxic load in many of common vaccines as of January 2017, including aluminum and MSG, visit the CDC chart HERE.
In 1996, your child’s (or your own) vaccination schedule may have looked something like this:
– Hepatitis B. Four shots total, three starting at birth and going through 18 months and an additional booster recommended at 12 years.
– DTP (or DTaP). A series of four shots total, three between 2 months and 18 months of age and one booster at around 12 years of age.
– Influenza (Haemophilus Influenza Type B). Four rounds total, three between 2 and 6 months and one between 12 and 18 months.
– Polio Virus. Four shots, two at 2 to 4 months, one at 6 to 18 months and one at 4 to 6 years.
– Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR). Two shots total, one recommended between 12 and 18 months and another around 5 years old or 12 years old.
– Varicella Zoster virus (a form of herpes). Two shots total, one between 12 and 18 months and another around 12 years of age.
The typical number of total vaccinations for children in the mid-1990s was twenty, more than double the number of shots given just 30 years prior.
Present Day Vaccine Scheduling
If you follow the current (2017) CDC Childhood Immunization Schedule, your children will receive over 36 vaccines by the time they are 6 years of age. In fact, the schedule is so lengthy for children and adolescents that it would be impossible to copy it all into this article. (Detailed description of the 2017 CDC Childhood Immunization Schedule – Ref: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/imz/child-adolescent.html)
From the 2000s onwards, the United States not only saw a dramatic rise in mandated and recommended vaccinations, but also a change in age. Most states now require 100% compliance with CDC vaccines schedules for MMR, TDP (i.e. DTaP), Hep B, and others in order for a child to enter into public school as a kindergartener.
Other states require up-to-date vaccinations for entering into higher education or certain sectors of the workforce such as healthcare. The CDC now prints a yearly Adult Vaccination Schedule that includes MMR, DTaP, Hep A and B, HPV, and Influenza, among others. (2017 Adult Vaccine Schedule – Ref: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/adult/adult-combined-schedule.pdf)
The new century also saw a change in policy regarding the power and breadth that private pharmaceutical companies have in creating vaccines with less accountability for any resulting vaccine injuries. On February 22, 2011, in the final decision of Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with drug companies by shielding them from any liability and closed the loophole. According to the 6-2 report: “…the court affirmed laws that vaccine manufacturers are not liable for vaccine-induced injury or death if they are ‘accompanied by proper directions and warnings’”.
As Barbara Loe Fisher, president of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), stated in a recent article, “From now on, drug companies selling vaccines in America will not be held accountable by a jury of our peers in a court of law if those vaccines brain damage us but could have been made less toxic.”
It goes without saying that the vaccine environment in which your children now live in is much different than the one in which you may have lived in during the 60s, 70s, 80s, or even 1990s. Americans are now “required by law to use more vaccines than any other nation in the world”.
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