Sixty years ago, in March 1963, the U.S. Surgeon General granted licenses to two drug companies to produce the first measles vaccines. It had taken nine years of research before a vaccine was ready for release to the public. That was too late for my sister, Mary Maura Grimaldi, who died at age 6 of encephalitis caused by measles, on the same day the licenses were announced.
By contrast, it took only about a year for scientists to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. The difference was largely due to advances in research technology and $18 billion in taxpayer funds, said Dr. Paul Rota, chief of Viral Vaccine Preventable Diseases Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Perhaps a more important difference is that most Americans ultimately embraced the measles shot, urged on by a “no shots, no school” campaign requiring vaccinations for all students, noted Dr. Walt Orenstein, a professor of epidemiology at Emory University.