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Baruch Blumberg, Nobel Laureate, Pioneer of Hepatitis B Research, Dies at 85

In the 1960s, a medical doctor was interested in studying the influence that a person’s genes could have on susceptibility to disease, with an eye toward developing personalized medicine. By identifying individuals at high risk for a disease and studying environmental factors that interacted with their particular genetic variations, he hoped, researchers could develop approaches that at-risk individuals could use to prevent them from getting sick.

 With colleagues, he traveled across the globe collecting blood samples from different populations. One set of samples produced a curious reaction: antibodies in the blood from a New York City hemophilia patient reacted with blood from a seemingly healthy Australian Aborigine. The serum from the hemophilia patient contained an antibody that reacted to something in the Australian’s blood.

That “something” would eventually be called the Australia antigen. The researcher was Baruch Blumberg.

Dr. Blumberg passed away on April 5, 2011, at the age of 85. More

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NYAS: March 28 Vaccine Event

CDC Please join the New York Academy of Sciences for “Vaccines under the Gun: Politics, Science, Media and the Law,” taking place on Monday, March 28 (1:00 PM – 5:00 PM) at the New York Academy of Sciences conference center in New York City. Esteemed speakers Paul Offit, MD (The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia), Dan Thomasch (Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe) and Trine Tsouderos (Chicago Tribune) will examine historical approaches to vaccination, the evolution and use of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, community-wide and personal safety considerations, social implications of these decisions, and the impact of recent legal cases (CHOP vs Health Care Workers Union 1199, AFL-CIO; Bruesewitz vs Wyeth). Perri Klass, MD (New York University) will moderate a panel discussion. This symposium is presented by the New York Academy of Sciences’ Vaccine Science Discussion Group. More

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Interview with Paul Offit and Seth Mnookin

On March 1, The History of Vaccines hosted "Vaccine Science, Realities, and Fears in the Popular Mind" at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Paul Offit, MD, an infectious disease physician and vaccine developer, and Seth Mnookin, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, discussed their new books as well as the past and future of vaccination as depicted in the media, among parents, and in the medical world. More

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What We're Researching: Typhoid Fever History

First typhoid inoculation at the U.S. Army Medical School. Recently we’ve been developing new material for our historical timelines. In the near future, we’re planning to add some entries on typhoid fever and the development of typhoid vaccines. In the meantime, we wanted to share a bit of what we've found. More

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Don't Forget: Offit and Mnookin in Philadelphia, March 1, 6:30 pm

On Tuesday, March 1, at 6:30 pm, The History of Vaccines will present Paul A. Offit, MD, and Seth Mnookin speaking about their new books – Offit’s Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All, and Mnookin’s The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear. We'll be webcasting at the College's Livestream channel: http://www.livestream.com/collegeofphysicians. We hope you'll join us in person or online for this thought-provoking event. More

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Bruesewitz vs. Wyeth Case Resolved

Pertussis bacteria, Copyright Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on February 22 on Bruesewitz vs. Wyeth, upholding a federal law that established protection for vaccine makers from lawsuits and that provides compensation for certain vaccine injuries.

The Bruesewitz suit claimed that a vaccine Hannah Bruesewitz received in 1992 (her third dose of the diphtheria-whole cell pertussis-tetanus vaccine) was defective in its composition and thus resulted in the girl’s seizures and developmental delays. The Bruesewitz family earlier had been denied compensation from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion, stating that "Vaccine manufacturers fund from their sales an informal, efficient compensation program for vaccine injuries; in exchange they avoid costly tort litigation and the occasional disproportionate jury verdict."  He asserted that the intention of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 (which established NVICP) to exclude drug design defects from liability claims is evident in its “lack of guidance for design defects combined with the expansive guidance for the grounds of liability specifically mentioned.” More

Reminder and Webcast Notice: Offit and Mnookin, March 1, 6:30 pm

Many of you have emailed and called us to ask if we'll be webcasting the March 1 event here at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. The answer is yes. Please tune in if you can't be here in Philadelphia.

On Tuesday, March 1, at 6:30 pm, The History of Vaccines will present Paul A. Offit, MD, and Seth Mnookin speaking about their new books – Offit’s Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All, and Mnookin’s The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear. We'll be webcasting at the College's Livestream channel: http://www.livestream.com/collegeofphysicians. More

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New Videos: Blumberg and Austrian

Baruch Blumberg discusses connecting the Australia antigen to hepatitis B. New this week on The History of Vaccines are interviews with two vaccine pioneers, Baruch Blumberg, MD, PhD, and Robert Austrian, MD.

The History of Vaccines interviewed Dr. Blumberg here at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia in November 2010. Dr. Blumberg discussed the fieldwork that led to his discovery of the Australia antigen, the challenges of investigating the nature of the Australia antigen, the discovery of its relationship to the hepatitis B virus, and his work on the serum-based hepatitis B vaccine. He also discussed being awarded the Nobel Prize in 1976 (only after prompting from us!), his subsequent travels in China at a time when very few Westerners had been there, and results of studies of reduction of HBV prevalence associated with the vaccine.

Infectious disease physican and Chief Medical Officer of the Penn Health System P.J. Brennan, MD, interviewed Dr. Austrian (1916-2007) in 2000. Dr. Austrian discussed his initial investigations into the prevalence of pneumococcal pneumonia, the assumptions he worked against that antimicrobials had "solved" the problem of pneumococcal pneumonia, and his pneumococcal vaccine trial among gold miners in South Africa. More

Viral Strains for Seasonal Flu Vaccine Well-Matched with Circulating Strains

Transmission electron micograph (TEM) depicting influenza A virions. Photo credit: CDC/ F. A. Murphy Because influenza viruses frequently mutate, a new seasonal flu vaccine is developed each year in order to keep up with the circulating strains. Each year, the vaccine provides protection against three strains: two influenza A strains and one influenza B. The flu vaccine for the 2010-2011 flu season provides protection against a 2009 H1N1 A strain, H3N2 A strain, and an influenza B strain More

HOV Brings Paul Offit and Seth Mnookin to Philadelphia, Tuesday, March 1, 6:30

Seth Mnookin and Paul Offit, Tuesday, March 1 Join us for a stimulating evening on Tuesday, March 1, when The History of Vaccines brings Paul A. Offit, MD, and Seth Mnookin to speak at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Both have newly published books – Offit’s Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All, and Mnookin’s The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear – and both have been prominent voices in the recent national media coverage of Andrew Wakefield’s 1998 Lancet paper that attempted to link MMR vaccination to autism.

Offit, an infectious disease physician and vaccine developer, and Mnookin, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, will discuss their new books and have a conversation about the past and future of vaccination as depicted in the media, among parents, and in the medical world. A question-and-answer session with the audience will follow. Registration for this free event is required. More

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