The History of Vaccines Blog

Notes from Vaccine Update Webinar with Paul Offit, MD

On March 13, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Vaccine Education Center sponsored a vaccine update webinar with Paul A. Offit, MD, as the speaker and moderator. Dr. Offit discussed vaccine-related items in the news as well as decisions taken at recent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) meetings in Atlanta. First on the agenda was a discussion of pertussis vaccine, particularly as it relates to a February 7 letter to the New England Journal of Medicine in which researchers (Queenan, Cassidy, & Evangelista) called attention to new strains of Bordatella pertussis that the group had observed at St. Christopher’s Hospital in Philadelphia. Specifically, these strains were classified as pertactin-negative. Pertactin is a protein that is normally a component of B. pertussis, and it is one several antigenic proteins in acellular pertussis vaccines. The letter questioned whether the acellular vaccine was generating pressure on B. pertussis, thus leading to the emergence of these pertactin-negative strains. More

Please, Nurse, May I Have Some Plague Vaccine?

Hicks Vaccination Record, The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Instead of a teething ring, I had a passport. Between a military father and diplomatic step-father, my family moved every year or two or three to exotic places, from Taiwan to the Philippines to Ecuador. Tucked into my passport was another essential travel document, the International Certificates of Vaccination issued by the federal government, a yellow-paper catalog of inoculations with separate pages for smallpox, yellow fever, and cholera. When traveling during the 1950s and 1960s, before computerized databases, immigration officials examined my passport in one hand, the dog-eared vaccination record in the other. Reviewing the vaccination record now, I still derive the same satisfaction that I experienced as a school kid in reading my vaccination history—which we kids called our “shot records”--as a chronology of health accomplishment, a medical report card. A visit to the doctor before taking a trip became so routine that I ceased to fear needle punctures. Rather, I looked forward to having the administering physician sign and return my vaccination record. More

Anne Schuchat: Slings, Arrows, Outrage, and Fortune

Anne Schuchat, MD, CDC We at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia were honored to host Anne Schuchat, MD, Acting Director, CDC’s Center for Global Health, on February 26. 2013. Dr. Schuchat was here to accept—symbolically, because as a government employee, she was unable to receive the actual medal—the Jonathan E. Rhoads Medal. The College, the American Philosophical Society, and University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Surgery award this medal annually. Schuchat has worked for the CDC since 1988, when she was an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer. Her biography, which includes a description of her important work on preventing Group B streptococcal disease in newborns, can be found here. More

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Sequester Effects on Vaccine Programs and Public Health

FEMA/Bill Koplitz Thanks to Joshua Prasad, MPH student at Drexel University School of Public Health, for putting together the information from the White House in an easy-to-read way. Most of you are probably following the news about the potential sequester that may begin on March 1. If US lawmakers can’t come to an agreement to avert the sequester, many federal agencies and programs will need to make across the board budget cuts of 10%. One area in which the cuts may be felt is seasonal influenza response and planning. Representative Henry Waxman summarized CDC Director Tom Friedan’s description of the effects of sequestration on CDC’s influenza immunization activities in the following way: More

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C. Everett Koop 1916-2013

C. Everett Koop. The College of Physicians of Philadelphia It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of our long-time Fellow and Presidential Advisor, C. Everett Koop, MD, ScD. Dr. Koop was more than a colleague: he was a mentor, advisor, and teacher, but most importantly, our brother and friend. His dedication to our profession and service to this College helped us all better understand what it means to be part of medicine.  His compassion for his patients taught us how to be good and caring physicians. More

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Plotkin and Offit in Top Ten Most Influential in Vaccines

Stanley A. Plotkin, MD. Courtesy Dr. Plotkin What does the following list mean to you? Bill Gates, Stanley Plotkin, Rino Rappouli, Melinda Gates, Seth Berkley, Paul Offit, Suresh Jadhav, Ted Bianco, Ciro de Quadro, Gordon Dougan. Followers of the blog and LinkedIn group Vaccine Nation chose the ten as the most influential people in the vaccine world. Vaccine Nation is run by Terrapinn, a media company that sponsors conferences on, among other things, vaccines and orphan drugs. The full list of vaccine influencers is 50 names long, and includes individuals in academia and research institutes, industry, NGOs and nonprofits, and government. More

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History of Vaccines Publishes Book

The History of Vaccines, available at As of today, The History of Vaccines has published a book. This book has been in the making for the past few months and features new material and material adapted from the History of Vaccines website. The book showcases more than 40 illustrations and photographs, many of them drawn from the Historical Medical Library here at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. It was generously funded by an independent educational grant from Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc. More

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New Videos: March of Dimes and Polio

David Rose, Archivist, March of Dimes We've just posted a set of video clips of an interview we conducted in October 2012 with March of Dimes archivist David Rose. Rose was here to give a talk about the Foundation's involvement in polio treatment and vaccine research and promotion from the 1930s through the 1960s. He discussed the role of U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt in found the March of Dimes and funding medical treatments for children and adults with paralytic polio. Addtionally, he gave an overview of the principle researchers investigating poliovirus at the time: the Enders team in Boston, Jonas Salk at the University of Pittsburgh, and Albert Sabin at the Universty of Cincinnati. More

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Influenza Vaccine Uptake Here at the College

My arm, 2011 I take the influenza vaccine just about every year, and blogged about my reasons for doing so last year. But I was curious about my co-workers: we work in an organization whose mission is “to advance the cause of health and uphold the ideals and heritage of medicine.” Would they be more likely than the average American to take the vaccine? Or would we look roughly like the American population, of whom about 58% pass up the vaccine? I managed to talk to just about everyone here who works directly for the College in a full-time capacity. I told people that they were not obligated to answer my question (one person declined to participate). In response to “Did you get a flu shot this year?” 13 people responded that they had, and 17 people said that they hadn’t. So, here at the College we have about 43% uptake of the vaccine, on par with the national 42%. I was surprised. More

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Looking Back at the CIDRAP Influenza Vaccine Report

Influenza viruses, copyright Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc. Every year, beginning in early fall, public health messages go out to the American public encouraging influenza immunizations. The reason for this is simple to understand. Influenza causes yearly epidemics during the cold months in each hemisphere – December to March in the northern hemisphere and June to September in the southern hemisphere. To prevent illness and even death from influenza, public health authorities encourage influenza vaccination of all people age 6 months and older. The vaccine – available as an injection or a nasal spray – has been promoted as “the best way to reduce the chances that you will get seasonal flu and lessen the chance that you will spread it to others.” Shortly after the 2009 influenza pandemic, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), based at the University of Minnesota, undertook a Comprehensive Influenza Vaccine Initiative (CCIVI). The primary objectives of the CCIVI “were to provide a comprehensive review of all aspects of 2009-2010 pandemic A(H1N1)pdm09 influenza vaccine preparedness and response based on the events of the pandemic vaccine effort and to review the scientific and programmatic basis for the current seasonal influenza vaccine efforts.” This review took about three years, and it was an exhaustive analysis of many aspects of what goes into getting those yearly influenza vaccines from the manufacturer and into the arms or noses of consumers. More

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