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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.

Original publication




Journal article


Arch Dis Child

Publication Date





216 - 222


immunisation, vaccine