The centrally coordinated response that controlled the polio epidemics of the 1950s through immunisation led to the development of a national immunisation strategy in the UK and the formation of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in 1963, which oversees the immunisation programme and advises the UK Department of Health on new vaccine introductions. As a result of technological advances in vaccine development and scientific advances in immunology and microbiology over the 56 years since then, and the formation of a comprehensive public health surveillance system for vaccine-preventable disease, the National Health Service immunisation programme now covers 18 serious diseases of childhood, with an astonishing impact on child health. Here we consider the formation of the JCVI and the development of the national immunisation programme and review the introduction of vaccines over the past half century to defend public health.
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Contributors SLa: conceived the idea of immunisation timeline, completed the literature searches and sources, analysed the available literature, and designed, drafted and revised the paper (and the immunisation timeline). SLo: revised the draft papers, advised on the design of the paper and approved the final version. NDM: initiated collaborative timeline project, advised on the design of the paper, revised the draft paper and approved the final version. MER: drafted sections of the paper, critically revised the draft papers and approved the final version. DS: critically revised the draft papers, advised on the interpretation of data and approved the final version. AJP: initiated collaborative timeline project, advised on the design of the paper, drafted sections of the paper, critically revised the draft papers and approved the final version.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests SLa, SLo, NDC and MER declare that they have no conflicts of interest. DS reports personal fees from vaccine manufacturers, outside the submitted work. AJP is Chair of the UK Department of Health’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, and the EMA Scientific Advisory Group on vaccines, and is a member of the WHO’s SAGE.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.
Patient consent for publication Not required.