The History of Vaccines Blog

Polio: The Saddest Stories in Our Family

Courtesy P. Loughman Today's blog post, written for National Immunization Awareness Month, is by P. Loughman. The photograph of a young woman and small boy is so precious that my cousin won’t take it out of the oval frame. He was her father and kept the photo on top of his bureau until the day he died. She was Seraphina (according to my mother some years ago); maybe Filomena (ventured my uncle when studying the family tree); definitely Josephine (said my cousin who knew best). No one agreed on her official first name, but everyone knew exactly who she was and how she died. The oldest child born to a stone mason from Naples and a multilingual Greek mother from Alexandria, Josephine Rosiello was a confident girl and capable helper with nine younger siblings in early 20th century Brooklyn. Her immigrant parents preferred nicknames and the family called her Fina. Dressed in fashionable flapper styles, she forged ahead into the new modern world, the epitome of a first generation American, until she succumbed to polio in October of 1924.  More

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Phase 3 Trial of Recombinant Shingles Vaccine Shows Promise in Older Adults

Shingles on face and in mouth, 1835 The herpes zoster vaccine commercially available in the United States (Zostavax, Merck, generic zoster vaccine live) is 51% effective at preventing shingles in adults ages 60 and older, but it is less effective for older adults. For those over age 70, it is only 38% effective at preventing disease. Vaccine maker GSK hoped to produce a vaccine that worked better for older adults and that could be used by people with immunosuppressive conditions. (The licensed zoster vaccine is a live, attenuated virus vaccine and so is contraindicated in people with suppressed immune systems.) More

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AMA Policy on Immunization Exemptions

Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia At its annual meeting in Chicago, the American Medical Association adopted a policy on June 8 to support the end of non-medical exemptions to school vaccination requirements. This policy aligns with legislative efforts in many states to end personal belief exemptions that allow parents to cite a strong conviction as a reason to lawfully exempt their children from mandatory vaccinations required for school entry. The AMA policy goes further by recommending that religious exemptions be eliminated as well. Vermont just passed a law, effective July 2016, that would end philosophical belief exemptions in the state but leave religious exemptions in place. A similar bill is pending in the Pennsylvania legislature. (We hosted a panel discussion on this legislation in mid May.) Also in May the California Senate advanced a bill that would end all non-medical exemptions for school entry. The California Assembly Health Committee is considering the bill as of Tuesday, June 8. More

State Rights, Parental Decisions, and Vaccine Exemptions

Policy Event, May 14, 2015 How far should state power extend into medical decisions that parents make on behalf of their children? What is a parent’s responsibility to children in the community who have particular susceptibility to harm from infectious diseases? These questions framed the discussion we had last week here at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia on pending legislation in Pennsylvania to eliminate personal belief exemptions to school vaccination requirements. Both the bill’s sponsor, Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach (17th District) and Paul A. Offit, MD, argued that personal belief exemptions allow parents to shirk responsibility for keeping their communities safe and healthy. The Honorable James G. Colins, President Judge Emeritus, Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, introduced and moderated the event. More

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Availability and Impact of 9-Valent HPV Vaccine

In late 2014, the US Food and Drug Administration approved a 9-valent human papillomavirus vaccine. In early 2015, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices made the recommendation that it be offered as one of the available HPV vaccines this country. The vaccine, made by Merck, is known commercially as Gardasil 9 and generically as Human Papillomavirus 9-valent Vaccine, Recombinant (9vHPV). This change in the vaccine will make HPV vaccination more broadly effective; 9vHPV protects against HPV strains that cause 90% of cervical cancers – as compared with the quadrivalent vaccine, whose two oncogenic strains account for approximately 68% of cervical cancers in the United States. Moreover, the new vaccine may provide protection to subgroups of women who are more vulnerable to HPV types not in the bivalent and quadrivalent vaccines.  More

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Rubella Elimination in the Americas

Plotkin on 1964-65 Rubella Epidemic and Vaccine The Pan-American Health Organization of the World Health Organization announced that endemic transmission of rubella in the Americas has ended and that the Americas are rubella-free. The announcement comes after years of surveillance to ensure that any new cases of rubella have resulting from importations from outside the Americas. This task was made more complex by the mild nature of rubella illness in nonpregnant individuals: it is easily mistaken for other illnesses. All suspect cases had to be ruled out, and all true cases of rubella had to be studied carefully to ensure that their origin was from outside the Americas. The last confirmed case of endemic transmission occurred in 2009 in Argentina. More

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Panel Discussion, May 14, Pennsylvania Personal Belief Exemption

Pennsylvania Capitol Building Please join us on May 14, 2015, at 6:30 pm, when we'll be hosting a panel discussion on legislation pending in the Pennsylvania state legislature that would end philosophical/moral/personal belief exemptions to school vaccination requirements. In light of Pennsylvania's relatively low rate of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination coverage (in 2013-2014, 85.3% of Pennsylvania kindergarteners had received both doses of MMR vaccines, as compared with the nation's median of 94.7%) and the 2014-15 measles outbreak related to exposures at Disneyland, this topic is very timely. More

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60 Years of Polio Vaccines

Polio Pioneer Card, 1954 Sixty years ago, on April 12, 1955, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the results of the largest clinical trial in history were announced. To the tremendous relief of a hopeful nation, Thomas Francis Jr., MD, revealed that the Salk inactivated poliomyelitis vaccine was “safe, effective, and potent” against paralytic polio. The trial had begun in April 1954 when the first of about 1.3 million first- , second-, and third-graders began their participation as vaccine recipients (about 422,000), placebo recipients (about 201,000), or observed control subjects (about 725,000) (see the official report on the trial for details on the study design). Injections, observations, and data collection continued through the spring, and then the information was handed over to Francis’s team for analysis. More

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Serogroup B Meningococcal Disease at University of Oregon

Neisseria meningitidis, x3750 Six cases of disease from serogroup B meningococcal bacteria have occurred at the University of Oregon; the latest case was confirmed just today. One student has died. The university has offered the newly licensed serogroup B meningococcal vaccines (Bexsero and Trumenba) to students; so far, about 9,000 students have received one dose of the vaccine. (Bexsero is a two-dose series and Trumenba is a three-dose series.) Students were offered the vaccine at clinics on campus, and standing orders at local pharmacies allow those at risk to get the vaccine.  In most cases, student’s health insurance plans are covering the cost of the vaccine. More

The Fantastic Laboratory: Arthur Allen Talk March 12

Arthur Allen's book Please join us the evening of March 12, 2015, when writer Arthur Allen discusses the lives and work of Rudolf Weigl and Ludwik Fleck, two forgotten scientific heroes. Weigl and Fleck used their knowledge of typhus and vaccines in World War II Poland to save thousands of people and sabotage the Nazis. Allen will also discuss the philosophy of science that Fleck, a Jewish scholar and diagnostician, developed under almost impossibly difficult circumstances in the ghetto and concentration camps. Paul Offit, MD, vaccine developer and author of many books about vaccines, medicine, and social issues, will facilitate a discussion. More

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