The mass inoculation of millions of American children against polio in 1955, like the vaccinations of millions of American adults against COVID-19 in 2021, was a triumph of science.
But the polio vaccine had overwhelming public acceptance, while stubborn pockets of vaccine hesitancy persist across the U.S. for the COVID-19 vaccine. Why the difference? One reason, historians say, is that in 1955, many Americans had an especially deep respect for science.
“If you had to pick a moment as the high point of respect for scientific discovery, it would have been then,” says David M. Oshinsky, a medical historian at New York University and the author of Polio: An American Story. “After World War II, you had antibiotics rolling off the production line for the first time. People believed infectious disease was [being] conquered. And then this amazing vaccine is announced. People couldn’t get it fast enough.”
Today, the unprecedented speed of the COVID-19 vaccines’ development, along with a flood of disinformation on the internet about all vaccines, has led to a lingering hesitancy among some Americans to receive the increasingly available COVID-19 shots.
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction