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April 24, 1967


JAMA. 1967;200(4):329-330. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120170101025

Many of the most striking achievements in medicine have been through immunization against infectious disease. The modern scientist, however, would be appalled at the comparative lack of safety standards used in the development of early vaccines. These vaccines were introduced into the general public with background safety data that today would not satisfy licensing requirements for even experimental use in humans. The reasons for this are not difficult to understand. A comparative lack of technical sophistication played a part, but the main factor was the high risk of the diseases involved. A few adverse reactions were a small price to pay for the control of diphtheria, yellow fever, tetanus, and many other diseases. With progressive control of the great plagues of man, the gulf between risk of the disease and risk of immunization has correspondingly narrowed. There is no reasonable doubt that measles, mumps, and parainfluenza viruses cause significant morbidity