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In February 1976, a 19-year-old soldier died at Fort Dix, N.J., after coming down with a severe case of influenza dubbed the "swine flu". Fearing a return of the fatal 1918 Spanish flu virus, U.S. authorities launched an unprecedented program to vaccinate every man, woman and child in the country. But after two months and tens of million of dollars, the program was scrapped when reports leaked out about adverse reactions to the shot that ranged from temporary paralysis to death. This CBC Television clip looks at the ill-fated initiative, which was blamed for casting suspicion on vaccination efforts for an entire generation.
One of the NEJM studies also showed that many older Americans as well as recipients of the 1976 swine flu vaccine may already be protected against the new virus. In that study, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that tests of serum taken from 1976 swine flu vaccine recipients showed a strong protective immune response against today's pandemic virus. The findings may help to explain why the virus sickens children and young adults more than older people, the authors wrote. The preexisting immunity may also prime 1976 vaccinees to respond vigorously to the new pandemic vaccine.