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Vaccines Then and Now: How America Fought Polio, Fights COVID-19

Photos reveal parallels in efforts to eradicate life-threatening viruses 65 years apart

on the left is an image of schoolchildren being vaccinated for polio in the nineteen fifties and on the right is an image of a man in his early seventies getting a covid vaccine current day

Bettmann/Mario Tama/Getty Images

Left: a nurse prepares children for the polio vaccine in the 1950s. Right: Tyrone Valiant, 73, receives a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine outside the Los Angeles Mission on February 20, 2021.

En español | Before the development of a vaccine to halt the spread of the highly contagious virus, life during polio mimicked our lives today amid the coronavirus pandemic. Restrictions were placed on travel, quarantines were common, handwashing was urged, and infected patients in the hospital were not permitted to have family by their side.

Fortunately, the creation of COVID-19 vaccines came together in a matter of months — much faster than the polio inoculation, which arrived in 1955, decades after the U.S. began experiencing epidemics of the crippling disease. But the rollouts of the vaccines today and 65 years ago followed a similar thread in many ways. Take a look at these revealing photos that show the striking similarities between the vaccination efforts then and now.

Aaron Kassraie writes about issues important to military veterans and their families for AARP. He also serves as a general assignment reporter. Kassraie previously covered U.S. foreign policy as a correspondent for the Kuwait News Agency’s Washington bureau and worked in news gathering for USA Today and Al Jazeera English.

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