Vaccines and US

News and History

Science evolves as new facts are uncovered and our understanding of COVID-19 grows. Read a changing selection of developing stories about COVID-related issues and learn about past pandemics. Putting the current moment in historic context can help us make choices that have the power to improve our nation's future.

Vaccination in American History

Reverend Cotton Mather learned about smallpox inoculation from an enslaved worker, Onesimus, and used this insight to help reduce a major smallpox outbreak in Boston in 1721. Yet some city leaders strongly opposed the practice as risky and against nature. Between the early 1940s and the early 2020s, new vaccines were developed for nearly 20 diseases, helping to reduce infant and childhood mortality worldwide. Concerns about vaccine risk and how to communicate their public health benefits remain an important part of public and political discourse.

Last update: May 11, 2022