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History of Vaccines Blog


June 28, 2012  Project Director

When the New York Times announced that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio on September 16, 1921, fear swept the nation. Polio, a a relatively unknown illness at the time, had suddenly disabled  a wealthy and prominent politician on the cusp of his career, making it clear that any American, irrespective of social status, was potentially susceptible to the disease.  With the national spotlight focused on the issue, the search for a cure began, and the defeat of the dreaded illness became the most important health objective in America almost overnight.

Posted in: Polio

June 26, 2012  Project Director

As summer heats up, families, vacationers, and honeymooners are rushing to travel clinics for their last-minute shots before embarking on their adventures. Here’s a quick guide to what you should keep in mind when getting any needed travel vaccines: Go Early – Vaccines require a certain amount of time to build up immunity in your body to protect against disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you make an appointment 4-6 weeks before your scheduled departure. Moreover, many vaccines such as the hepatitis B vaccine and typhoid fever vaccine require multiple doses that must be spaced out for maximum effectiveness.

Posted in: General

June 22, 2012  Project Director

Have you ever forgotten to buy milk when you go to the grocery store? How about missing someone’s birthday? Because of the fast-paced world we live in, there are always going to be things that we forget to do. Some of them are more important than others. Bills need to be paid on time or we get fees charged to us. Applications need to be filed on time or we could miss out on an opportunity. Vaccines need to be given on time to offer the best chances of their providing immunity.

Posted in: General, Public Health

June 18, 2012  Project Director

Nos complace informar a nuestros lectores que hemos añadido una nueva y significativa sección a nuestro sitio A partir de hoy, publicaremos contenido en español para nuestros numerosos visitantes de habla hispana. Para acceder a una lista completa del contenido en español, haga clic en la etiqueta “Español” en la parte superior de la página, o, cuando vea contenido en inglés que tenga una versión en español, use el botón “en español” para cambiar de versión.

Posted in: General

May 23, 2012  Project Director

Memorial Day is the traditional start to the summer season in the United States. While having fun and being with friends and family are always at the top of the list of things to do during summer, being safe and staying healthy should also be on our minds. There are some things to be mindful of when heading outdoors to parks and forests. These things include preventing bites from ticks and mosquitoes, cooking and storing food properly, wearing proper sunscreen, swimming safely, and rabies.

Why rabies?

Rabies is a viral disease of mammals. While there are plenty of cases of rabies in animals in the United States, human cases are extremely rare, with one or two cases reported each year. This is because there is a robust public health system that responds to cases of possible and confirmed rabies exposure in humans. There is also a functioning veterinary health system -- and public policies -- that require immunization of household pets like cats and dogs. In the rest of the world, most of the 55,000 deaths from human rabies each year happen as a result of dog bites.[1]

Posted in: Public Health, Rabies

May 21, 2012  Project Director

On May 10, 2012, the Vanderburgh (Indiana) County Health Department issued a health alert regarding hepatitis A associated with a local restaurant. A person with hepatitis A had worked at the restaurant as a bartender, handling food and drinks, between April 20 and May 3, 2012, when the person would have been contagious. Because hepatitis A vaccine is useful in preventing hepatitis A only for 14 days after exposure, some of the people who were exposed did not qualify for vaccination. They were asked to seek medical care if they showed signs and symptoms of hepatitis A. However, those who ate at this restaurant between April 27 and May 3 had an opportunity to be immunized until May 17, 2012.[1] As of May 14, 2012, more than 500 people had requested the vaccination from the health department.

Posted in: Public Health

May 18, 2012  Project Director

Rolling an iron lung across one of the busiest intersections in downtown Philadelphia attracts a sizeable crowd. As the moving crew pushed the machine down Independence Mall around lunchtime on May 17, clutches of students on field trips to see the Liberty Bell gathered around, shouting questions like, “What is that?” “Is that what Michael Jackson slept in?” “Is it a time machine?”

Australian filmmaker Sonya Pemberton was shooting footage for her documentary Jabbed: Love, Fear and Vaccines, to be shown later in 2012 on SBS in Australia, in the United Kingdom, and (perhaps in 2013) on PBS the United States. On her production company’s website, Pemberton describes her film: “Diseases that were largely eradicated forty years ago are returning. Across the world children are dying from preventable conditions because nervous parents are skipping their baby’s shots. And yet the stories of vaccine injury are terrifying, with rare cases of people being hurt, even killed, by vaccines. To vaccinate or not - how do we decide?” Here at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, her crew is shooting interviews with Paul A. Offit, MD, vaccine developer and College Fellow, as well as filming artifacts from the College’s Historical Medical Library and Mütter Museum collection, many of them already discussed on this website.

Posted in: Polio

May 16, 2012  Project Director

**Note: this post was updated on 10/1/2012. California Assemblyman Richard Pan, MD (D - Sacramento), introduced Assembly Bill 2109 (AB 2109) on February 23, 2012. In California, parents who object to vaccinating their children may sign a “letter or affidavit stating that the immunization is contrary to his or her beliefs” to use California’s personal belief exemption to vaccinations required for school attendance. AB 2109 expands on that requirement by mandating that parents consult with a licensed healthcare provider in order to receive the exemption. Under AB 2109, the provider would sign a form attesting that he or she informed that parent about the risks and benefits of vaccination and the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases. The parent would sign the form as well. The bill was approved by the California Assembly on May 11, 2012, by a vote of 44 to 19. It was approved by the California State Senate, and Governor Jerry Brown signed it into law on September 29, 2012.

Posted in: Public Health

May 15, 2012  Project Director

The Secretary of Health of the state of Washington declared a pertussis epidemic on April 3, 2012, after the number of reported cases reached 640, compared to 94 cases reported in the same time period in 2011. Pertussis, or “whooping cough,” is a respiratory disease caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria. After a person becomes infected, it can take from 7 days to a month for pertussis symptoms to develop. The bacteria cause the disease by releasing toxins that lower the lungs’ ability to clear out respiratory secretions (mucus). After an initial period of a low-grade fever and mild cough, the cough becomes severe and occurs in episodes that prevent the patient from breathing properly, so much so that some patients turn blue during the coughing bouts and for a short time after.[1] According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 27,550 cases of pertussis were reported to public health authorities in 2010.

Posted in: Pertussis (whooping cough)

May 12, 2012  Project Director

Cholera is one of those diseases that you really don’t want to get. It begins like any other intestinal illness, with abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Suddenly, a very profuse, watery diarrhea develops. So much water leaves the body through the diarrhea that the person’s mouth becomes dry. He stops urinating because he has no fluid left. Eyes become sunken, and the sufferer loses his energy. During the course of the disease, a person with cholera may pass as many as 13 US gallons (or 50 liters) of fluid. Left untreated, cholera can kill a person in a matter of hours to days from severe dehydration.

Posted in: Cholera, Ethics, Public Health