This first comprehensive history of the social and political aspects of vaccination in the United States tells the story of how vaccination became a widely accepted public health measure over the course of the twentieth century. One hundred years ago, just a handful of vaccines existed, and only one, for smallpox, was widely used.
Today more than two dozen vaccines are in use, fourteen of which are universally recommended for children. State of Immunity examines the strategies that health officials have used―ranging from advertising and public relations campaigns to laws requiring children to be immunized before they can attend school―to gain public acceptance of vaccines. Like any medical intervention, vaccination carries a small risk of adverse reactions. But unlike other procedures, it is performed on healthy people, most commonly children, and has been mandated by law. Vaccination thus poses unique ethical, political, and legal questions.