History of Vaccines Blog
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s announcement yesterday that president-elect Donald J. Trump asked him to chair a government commission on "vaccine safety and scientific integrity" has prompted a deluge of responses on social media, on blogs, and in the media in general. Though he calls himself (and Trump) "very pro-vaccine," Kennedy has been a dogged pursuer of the discredited connection between vaccination and autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. If Kennedy's statement about his appointment is true -- and a Trump spokesperson has not quite confirmed it -- public health and medical workers are right to be concerned about the effect this commission may have on public perception of vaccines.
December 20, 2016
After years of hopes and false starts for a new Lyme disease vaccine, a French vaccine company has announced that their candidate vaccine will be tested for safety in humans. Valneva has received US Food and Drug Administration and European Union Clinical Trial Application approval to conduct a Phase I trial in 180 adults in sites in both the United States (Lincoln, Nebraska) and Europe (Ghent, Belgium). A pre-clinical trial of the vaccine candidate showed that it was effective at preventing Lyme disease in mice. The proposed dosage is a three-dose series at 0, 1-2, and 12 months, with a booster after 3-5 years. If the vaccine safety profile is acceptable in the Phase I trial, it would then proceed to a Phase II efficacy trial.
December 8, 2016
Join us December 13 at 6:30pm for an illustrated talk about smallpox vaccination in the American Civil War. Several smallpox epidemics swept through the Confederate states during the war. Southerners blamed the outbreaks on the northern states. Confederate doctors attempted to prevent smallpox spread by vaccinating soldiers, but then discovered that some vaccinations were ineffective (“spurious”) and spread other diseases, particularly syphilis. Director of the Mütter Museum and Historical Medical Library, and William Maul Measey Chair for the History of Medicine, Robert Hicks, PhD, will discuss how the Confederacy managed vaccinations and tried to address the problem of spurious vaccination. His illustrated talk includes the use of children on plantations as a source of vaccine and allegations of vaccination poisoning in the conflict’s only war crimes trial.
November 10, 2016
What does the United States president-elect have to say about vaccines?
Donald J. Trump has frequently stated that he believes that vaccines can cause autism, as in the Tweets shown here. In one of the primary debates, he dialed back his criticism a bit, stating, “I am totally in favor of vaccines, but I want smaller doses over a longer period of time.” But as Tara Haelle, a blogger at Forbes.com wrote, “Vaccines are very precisely manufactured to include only what is absolutely necessary to induce enough of an immune response that the body can protect itself against those diseases. So a smaller dose wouldn’t protect a child. It would stick a child with a needle for no reason at all. And spreading out vaccines? That just increases the risks to the children, including leaving them more susceptible to the diseases for a longer period of time. Trump is not ‘totally in favor of vaccines’ if he doesn’t want children protected from the diseases above as early as possible.” In contrast, in 2015, Hillary Clinton Tweeted, “The Science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let’s protect all our kids. #GrandmothersKnowBest.”
October 26, 2016
During the month of October, we see pumpkins, black cats, witches, and skeletons everywhere we turn. These images remind us of costumed children, scary movies, and tasty treats. But there is a bigger history behind these images, specifically the skeleton. A symbol for death and the afterlife, sometimes positive and sometimes negative, the skeleton holds a powerful meaning across many diverse cultures. It was also once adopted by the 19th-century anti-vaccination movement to scare people, especially parents, into forgoing smallpox vaccination. Below are a few examples of skeletal images used by Victorian Era anti-vaccinators.
Human papillomavirus vaccination series completion will now require only two doses of vaccine for adolescents younger than 15 years. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices approved this recommendation at their biannual meeting in Atlanta yesterday. The new schedule for <15 year olds calls for the second dose to be given between 6 and 12 months after the first dose. Adolescents receiving the first dose of HPV vaccine at age 15 or older will continue to be recommended three doses of vaccine, given at 0, 1-2, and 6 months.
October 12, 2016
Frequent visitors to this site will probably be acquainted with the name Maurice Hilleman and the man's work. During a long career with the U.S. Army, Squibb, and Merck, Hilleman developed dozens of vaccines and made important innovations in vaccinology. Before Hilleman died in 2005, Paul A. Offit, MD, himself developer of a widely used rotavirus vaccine, filmed a series of interviews with Hilleman and other scientists. Now Dr. Offit has produced and released a documentary using the footage, and we are proud to host a screening of it. It's an excellent film, with fascinating historical footage, animations, and insights into the world of infectious diseases prevention. Please join us for the screening -- we think you'll really enjoy the film.
September 30, 2016
The World Health Organization Region of the Americas has achieved a milestone in disease elimination – the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) on September 27, 2016, declared the Americas to be free of endemic measles. In the pre-vaccine era, the WHO estimates that measles killed 2.6 million children per year globally, and so measles elimination has done a great deal to combat a major threat to child health. The Region of the Americas is the first of the six WHO regions to eliminate transmission of measles. The United States was certified measles-free in 2000, and the last cases of endemic measles were reported in other countries of the region in 2002. The International Expert Committee for Documenting and Verifying Measles, Rubella, and Congenital Rubella Syndrome Elimination in the Americas was responsible for collecting reports from region countries to certify that measles has in fact been eliminated. Polio (certification in 1994), rubella (2015) and smallpox (1971) have been eliminated from the region as well, and, of course, smallpox has been eradicated globally (certification in 1980).
September 27, 2016
Carley Roche, an intern here at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, wrote today's blog post. In December 1924 the city of Philadelphia experienced an uptick in the incidence of smallpox with 9 new cases of the disease. While there had been a few reported cases earlier in the year, it soon became apparent in early January 1925 that the December outbreak might be more severe than the others, as the first smallpox death occurred in Philadelphia in more than 12 years. The Department of Public Health would spend the next 6 months quarantining and vaccinating citizens of the city in order to prevent a massive outbreak of smallpox beyond the city limits.
August 31, 2016
Donald A. Henderson, MD, MPH, died on August 21, 2016, at age 87. Henderson was a crucial figure in the eradication of smallpox. Posted to the World Health Organization in 1966 as a CDC employee, he developed the program that would, just a little more than 10 years later, eradicate a disease that killed more than 30% of those it infected, and that was responsible for hundreds of millions of deaths in the 20th century alone.
Henderson’s key insights into smallpox eradication came from his training by Alexander Langmuir as one of the early recruits of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, as well as from his public health education at Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health. Though he launched the WHO’s program with the goal of using mass vaccination as the main tool to eradicate smallpox, his use of rigorous surveillance and reporting techniques, learned in these public health contexts, laid the groundwork for a shift in strategy that successfully employed containment, or ring, vaccination to halt the spread of outbreaks.