Whooping Cough

Immunization complacency threatens to undo progress

Immunization complacency threatens to undo progress

The year is 1952, and hysteria is sweeping across the United States. What is everyone afraid of? Polio.

That year, the disease, which targets children, sickened nearly 58,000 Americans, killed more than 3,000 and left more than 20,000 with mild to disabling paralysis. That summer, at the height of the epidemic, public pools were closed, movie theaters were shuttered and infected children were placed under quarantine — involuntarily, if necessary.

A decade later, the average number of polio cases in this country dropped to about 900 per year. In another decade, polio was eliminated from the United States. What caused polio to vanish? Vaccination. Globally, cases of polio have...