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The Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention has identified immunization as the most important public health advance of the 20th century. The purpose of this article is to review the changes that have taken place in active immunization in the United States over the past decade. Since 1990, new vaccines have become available to prevent five infectious diseases: varicella, rotavirus, hepatitis A,
Lyme disease, and Japanese encephalitis virus infection. Improved vaccines have been developed to prevent Haemophilus influenzae type b, pneumococcus, pertussis, rabies, and typhoid infections. Immunization strategies for the prevention of hepatitis B, measles, meningococcal infections, and poliomyelitis have changed as a result of the changing epidemiology of these diseases. Combination vaccines are being developed to facilitate the delivery of multiple antigens, and improved vaccines are under development for cholera, influenza, and meningococcal
disease. Major advances in molecular biology have enabled scientists to devise new approaches to the development of vaccines against diseases ranging from respiratory viral to enteric bacterial infections that continue to plague the world’s population.