The National Influenza Immunization Program of 1976
A High Stakes Situation
“But no matter what it was called in the past, no name ever caused as much controversy as Swine Flu.” – An Explanation of the National Influenza Immunization Program, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1976
The National Influenza Immunization Program (NIIP), which began in response to a potential outbreak of a novel influenza virus in New Jersey in 1976, has impacted influenza science and history for decades. Dr. Keiji Fukuda, a prominent influenza expert and former CDC epidemiologist, noted that the event was as influential on the history of influenza as the 1918 pandemic.
After reports of a new strain of influenza A(H1N1) similar to strains not seen since the 1957 pandemic was isolated from an army training center in New Jersey, CDC and top public health scientists were concerned that a new pandemic sparked by a virus similar to the 1918 virus was on the horizon. After launching the then largest mass vaccination campaign in U.S. history, the NIIP had a rocky end when reports of adverse events related to the vaccine flooded the media.