On October 14 of 1976, a televised Gerald Ford rolled up his sleeve and smiled as he received a flu shot.
The publicized presidential vaccination was part of a push to urgently vaccinate Americans in anticipation of a pandemic that, Ford warned Americans, could rival 1918 (which killed tens of millions of people).
It never arrived.
Which is good, of course. The concerning flu strain in 1976 ultimately only involved one known death. But the zealous governmental push for vaccines—before a threat that didn't materialize, while a smattering of side effects did, and instead captured the national spotlight—also had longer term impact. The episode ultimately became part of a scaffold for some of the distrust and hesitancy that are pervasive today.
This week I discussed the story and its lessons for the current moment with the good people at the This Day in Esoteric Political History podcast (host Jody Avirgan and historians Nicole Hemmer and Kellie Carter Jackson).
It's out now, and you can find it wherever you prefer to "pod out," as the kids say.