How a New Vaccine Was Developed in Record Time in the 1960s

The invention of the modern mumps vaccine is legendary in medical textbooks. In 1963, a star researcher from the pharmaceutical company Merck took a sample from his own daughter’s throat to start growing a weakened form of the mumps virus. And only four years later, in record time, Merck authorized Mumpsvax as the world’s first effective vaccine against this common and contagious childhood illness.

But a closer look at the history of vaccines shows that this popular story overlooks the decades-long search for a cure for mumps that began in earnest during World War II. And this overshadows the fact that in the 1940s and 1950s, researchers looking for polio and measles vaccines made progressive breakthroughs in laboratory techniques that ultimately made the rapid development of the Mumpsvax of the 1960s possible.

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