July 23rd 2014
By: Neil Z. Miller
Prior to 1960, most children in the United States and Canada caught measles. Complications from the disease were unlikely. Previously healthy children usually recovered without incident.
In the 1960s, a measles vaccine was introduced. During the next several years, cases of the disease declined. However, a significant reduction in the severity of measles occurred long before the vaccine was introduced. For example, in 1900 there were 13.3 measles deaths in the United States per 100,000 people. By 1955 -- eight years before the first measles vaccine became available -- the death rate had declined on its own by 97.7% to .03 deaths per 100,000.(1) Data published in International Mortality Statistics shows that from 1915 to 1958 the measles death rate in the United States and United Kingdom declined by 98%.(2)