History of Vaccines Blog


October 18, 2018  Rene F. Najera

With only a few weeks to go before the midterm elections, I've noticed more and more vaccine-related news having to do with the views and opinions of candidates for office. For example, in Oregon, The Daily Beast is reporting that the Republican candidate for governor "wants weaker vaccine laws": "Knute Buehler, a physician who currently serves as a state representative, responded to a recorded question about vaccinations by saying that he backed parental rights to opt out even absent a medical basis for doing so. “As a physician, I certainly believe in the benefits of vaccination but I also think that parents should have the right to opt out,” Buehler said. “To opt out for personal beliefs, for religious beliefs or even if they have strong alternative medical beliefs. And that has been beneficial. I think that gives people option and choice and that’s the policy I would continue to pursue as Oregon’s governor.” Buehler’s answer is at odds with the vast majority of medical literature, which touts the necessity of a social contract around vaccinations in helping to stop the re-emergence or spreading of infectious diseases. Under current Oregon law, parents are able to exempt children from vaccination under specific circumstances: that they talk to a medical provider or watch an online video about the benefits of vaccines." Read more...

Posted in: General, Public Health

October 10, 2018  Rene F. Najera

You've probably heard the story of Edward Jenner and his smallpox vaccine a million times. Here's a quick animated video re-telling the story of Dr. Jenner's discovery and he tested his hypothesis. Read more...

Posted in: General

October 8, 2018  Rene F. Najera

Once in a while, a vaccine comes along that is capable of saving millions of lives. For example, the rotavirus vaccine prevents about half a million deaths from diarrhea in children, according to some estimates. Another vaccine that is making history is the HPV vaccine. Not only does it prevent genital warts, it also prevents cancer. The way it does this is by preventing an HPV infection that causes changes at the cellular level in different kinds of tissues that the Human Papillomavirus infects. Those changes lead to the activation of what are called "oncogenes," genes that tell the cell to start multiplying out of control, leading to cancer. Now comes news that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has expanded the use of Gardasil 9, a vaccine against Human Papillomavirus (HPV), to be given to people up to the age of 45. Read more...

Posted in: General

October 5, 2018  Rene F. Najera

Every week, we trawl the different news services for anything related to vaccines, vaccine science, and vaccine-preventable diseases. Here is a quick synthesis of some of most notable news. (All from reliable sources.) Read more...

Posted in: General

October 4, 2018  Rene F. Najera

Hello! My name is René F. Najera, and I’m an epidemiologist. Well, I’m a lot of things, like father, husband, and brother, but my profession is epidemiologist. Epidemiology is the study of that which comes upon the people. By “that,” we mean those diseases and conditions that threaten health and wellbeing. These could be everything from infectious diseases to chronic conditions like diabetes or even poverty. We take information from all available sources, analyze it, and then put it to work. Once in a while, we go to “hot spots” to fight outbreaks and such. If my name sounds familiar to you, it’s because I’ve written for History of Vaccines before... Read more...

Posted in: General

September 26, 2018  Karie Youngdahl

When people write about the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918-19, they usually start with the staggering global death toll, the huge number of people who were infected with the pandemic virus, and the inability of the medical field to do anything to help the infected. And while those factors were hallmarks of the devastating episode, researchers and health workers in the United States and Europe were confidently devising vaccines and immunizing hundreds of thousands of people in what amounted to a medical experiment on the grandest scale. What were the vaccines they came up with? Did they do anything to protect the immunized and halt the spread of the disease? First, the numbers. In 1918 the US population was 103.2 million. During the three waves of the Spanish Influenza pandemic between spring 1918 and spring 1919, about 200 of every 1000 people contracted influenza (about 20.6 million). Between 0.8% (164,800) and 3.1% (638,000) of those infected died from influenza or pneumonia secondary to it.  Read more...

Posted in: General, Historical Medical Library, Influenza, Public Health

August 8, 2018  Karie Youngdahl

Just last year, in the midst of ongoing measles outbreaks, Italian lawmakers cracked down on parents who avoided vaccinating their children enrolled in public schools. Parents would be fined if their children were not in compliance with 10 vaccination requirements by age 6.  On Friday, August 3, a new coalition of populist and conservative legislators in the Italian Senate reversed direction, passing a measure that would eliminate the requirement that parents demonstrate their schoolchildren are immunized. The measure was supported by the recently ascendant Five-Star Movement and the League (Lega). Five Star had promised, if elected, to address the vaccination requirements.  Read more...

Posted in: General, Measles, Public Health

June 14, 2018  Karie Youngdahl

A new study of school vaccination requirement exemption rates shows that clusters of children with exemptions are present in many local areas and that actual measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) immunization rates are lower in those clusters. The researchers looked at the geography of exemptions in states that allow personal belief or philosophical belief exemptions (PBEs). States with a large number of highly exempting communities include Utah, Idaho, and Texas. Highly exempting areas are not necessarily located in large urban areas; in fact, "the 10 counties with the highest NME rates in the country have fewer than 50,000 persons and are located in rural regions." However, there are large urban areas with a high number of exempted kindergartners, defined in the study as 400 kindergartners. Read more...

Posted in: General, Public Health

May 25, 2018  Karie Youngdahl

An experimental Ebola virus disease (EVD) vaccine developed in Canada is being used to try to control an outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). As of May 21, the World Health Organization (WHO) counts 57 confirmed, probable, and suspected EVD cases in the country, with 23 deaths. DRC officials reported the first cases on 8 May 2018. The Ebola vaccine concept emerged from basic research about the pathogenicity of the virus -- scientists in Canada were trying to replicate American experiments that showed that one of the surface glycoproteins of the virus was responsible for its virulence. They deleted the gene for a glycoprotein from vesicular stomatitis virus, an animal virus commonly used such experiments, and inserted the EVD glycoprotein gene. They injected mice with the engineered virus, and rather than becoming sick with EVD when challenged, they were protected from disease. Read more...

Posted in: General, Public Health, Vaccine Research

March 16, 2018  Karie Youngdahl

Welcome to Global Teen Health Week 2018! Today is the second day of this third annual observance, and the first year that THW is global. Every day of THW has a different focus, and today's theme is Preventive Health and Vaccines. We know that teens have questions about vaccines, and so we held an event at the South Philadelphia Library, in conjunction with the Vaccine Education Center of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the library's youth programs, and one of our youth programs, the Karabots Junior Fellows. Teens played a trivia game with the Karabots Junior Fellows education and then had a question-and-answer session with Kristen Feemster, MD, MSHP, of the VEC and the Philadelphia Department of Health. Teen videographers filmed the event and put together this video together. We hope you'll watch and share and join in the activities around Global Teen Health Week! Read more...

Posted in: General, HPV, Influenza