I am honored to have been invited to open this plenary session—Vaccines in the Late Twentieth Century—Promises and Problems. At the joint meeting of these two distinguished societies during the United States' Bicentenary celebrations in 1976, I was privileged to address the plenary session on the history of tropical medicine. My subject then was Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, who, in collaboration with President Thomas Jefferson, introduced smallpox vaccination into the infant United States, including its population of American Indians. In discharging my responsibility here today, I'd like to begin again with an historical perspective before discussing vaccine delivery in contemporary developing countries.
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)—a soon to be vaccine-preventable disease—may be a recent phenomenon in Central Africa, America, and Europe, but some of the diseases for which effective vaccines are now available have been around for a long time. A stele dating from the fourteenth century b.c. is evidence that paralytic poliomyelitis was a problem for at least one poor doorkeeper in ancient Egypt.