People say that prevention beats treatment for a good reason. Vaccines are the epitome of this viewpoint. Administering shots to children makes it possible to prevent life-threatening illnesses, from polio to the flu. 

It’s still a comparatively recent trend that saw massive improvements from its humble beginnings just over a century ago. Let’s look at the vaccination procedures across the last 100 years in an appreciation act for all they do for humanity today.

Early Immunization Procedures

At the beginning of the 20th century, the United States faced an abundance of infectious diseases. For example, smallpox killed hundreds in 1900, and measles increased victim counts to thousands in the next 20 years. 

During that time, few to no effective preventative measures and treatment options existed to safeguard against these issues. 

The first smallpox vaccine did come out in 1796, but it was yet to enter wide usage and start putting the disease under control. Treatments against cholera, plague, and rabies also existed. Still, they were not secure and efficient enough to implement across the board.

However, since 1900, these solutions have become more prevalent. The development and licensing for treatments against 21 other diseases took place, too. 

As a result, medical scientists were able to contain various preventable conditions. The number of cases dropped to a record low, and some illnesses even got eradicated

Vaccine Impact & Success

Since the introduction and development of these vaccines, there were dramatic declines in morbidity. It turned out that the way these cures work productively prevents infections. 

It sounded counterintuitive when scientists first introduced them and even faced some pushback, but with time, its approval grew. 

The effects were the most visible in conditions for which governments recommended universal immunization for children. The following health concerns became much less of an issue.


During the early 20th century, almost 50 thousand cases and over 1500 deaths resulted from the two smallpox forms. After vaccination, though, there were rare outbreaks before an abrupt stop. The eradication took place in 1977, enabling treatment discontinuation. 


Polio paralyzed and killed a large number of people each year at the start of the previous century. It declined after the vaccine introduction in 1955. The latest massive infections happened in 1979, and since then, the only cases came from other countries.

For a while, there were issues and controversies around vaccine-induced polio. The inactivated treatment type reduced those cases to a neglectable number, though.


Measles has seen a 33-year-long downward trend, interrupted by brief epidemics in the 1970s and 1980s. No recorded measle-induced deaths have happened since 1998, marking this illness harmless. 


The first Hib vaccines showed up in 1985 for children below two years old, as the disease was the leading cause of problems in later childhood. At this point, the risks are close to non-existent among children. 

Current Vaccination Procedures

The national efforts to promote immunization of children began in 1955. Ever since, the federal, state and local governments have maintained the US delivery system across the country.

Today, the vaccination coverage has reached a record high. It exceeds 90% in toddlers for the standard treatment types. It’s lower for more recently introduced remedies, but society tends to accept the idea.

Before kids can receive their shots, though, the vaccines need to go through the FDA’s licensing process. It includes both extensive laboratory testing and checking the effect on human subjects. The three testing phases follow these steps:

  • Computerized studies try to predict how the cure interacts with the immune system.
  • Researchers try the treatment on test animals.
  • Human testing takes place to ensure no harm comes to the general population.

The FDA requires all these clinical trials before they can get used for the general public. Participation is 100% voluntary, with subjects applying to help with science advancements. 

The licensing usually takes ten years or longer. In times of crisis, however, it’s much quicker. The COVID-19 vaccine is a recent example, leading to many distrusting its efficacy. 

Still, the testing was as in-depth as necessary. Scientists only sped up the development stages. According to HealthTap, 96% of doctors believe that it’s safe and effective, and its emergency application is justifiable. 

The Bottom Line

Overall, vaccines are among the vital advancements in medical science nowadays. It’s been only two centuries between the first immunization attempt and the global protection we have today. Those 200 years were critical. 

The most significant difference lies in their safety, though. Nowadays, you can rest assured knowing that you’re receiving an extensively tested cure.

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