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History of Vaccines Blog


March 21, 2017  Karie Youngdahl

I'm happy to announce that The College of Physicians is hosting a lecture on April 3, 2017, that will be of great interest to History of Vaccines readers. This lecture, by Stockton University professor and History of Vaccines advisor Lisa Rosner, PhD, marks the 300th anniversary of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's well-known letter to an English friend about smallpox inoculation as practiced in Turkey. With her "Letter to a Friend," she became one of the earliest inoculation advocates, and she would be joined over the next 300 years by the celebrities and scientists, pop culture icons and heads of state, patients and game developers, who advocated for, or criticized, inoculation and vaccination. This talk will explore this colorful history of vaccine advocacy from Lady Mary to The Pox Hunter, a digital strategy game set in Benjamin Rush's Philadelphia.

Posted in: General, Smallpox

January 11, 2017  Karie Youngdahl

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s announcement yesterday that president-elect Donald J. Trump asked him to chair a government commission on "vaccine safety and scientific integrity" has prompted a deluge of responses on social media, on blogs, and in the media in general. Though he calls himself (and Trump) "very pro-vaccine," Kennedy has been a dogged pursuer of the discredited connection between vaccination and autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. If Kennedy's statement about his appointment is true -- and a Trump spokesperson has not quite confirmed it -- public health and medical workers are right to be concerned about the effect this commission may have on public perception of vaccines. 

Posted in: General, Public Health

December 20, 2016  Karie Youngdahl

After years of hopes and false starts for a new Lyme disease vaccine, a French vaccine company has announced that their candidate vaccine will be tested for safety in humans. Valneva has received US Food and Drug Administration and European Union Clinical Trial Application approval to conduct a Phase I trial in 180 adults in sites in both the United States (Lincoln, Nebraska) and Europe (Ghent, Belgium). A pre-clinical trial of the vaccine candidate showed that it was effective at preventing Lyme disease in mice. The proposed dosage is a three-dose series at 0, 1-2, and 12 months, with a booster after 3-5 years. If the vaccine safety profile is acceptable in the Phase I trial, it would then proceed to a Phase II efficacy trial.

Posted in: General

November 10, 2016  Karie Youngdahl

What does the United States president-elect have to say about vaccines?

Donald J. Trump has frequently stated that he believes that vaccines can cause autism, as in the Tweets shown here. In one of the primary debates, he dialed back his criticism a bit, stating, “I am totally in favor of vaccines, but I want smaller doses over a longer period of time.” But as Tara Haelle, a blogger at Forbes.com wrote, “Vaccines are very precisely manufactured to include only what is absolutely necessary to induce enough of an immune response that the body can protect itself against those diseases. So a smaller dose wouldn’t protect a child. It would stick a child with a needle for no reason at all. And spreading out vaccines? That just increases the risks to the children, including leaving them more susceptible to the diseases for a longer period of time. Trump is not ‘totally in favor of vaccines’ if he doesn’t want children protected from the diseases above as early as possible.” In contrast, in 2015, Hillary Clinton Tweeted, “The Science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let’s protect all our kids. #GrandmothersKnowBest.”

Posted in: General, Public Health

October 12, 2016  Karie Youngdahl

Frequent visitors to this site will probably be acquainted with the name Maurice Hilleman and the man's work. During a long career with the U.S. Army, Squibb, and Merck, Hilleman developed dozens of vaccines and made important innovations in vaccinology. Before Hilleman died in 2005, Paul A. Offit, MD, himself developer of a widely used rotavirus vaccine, filmed a series of interviews with Hilleman and other scientists. Now Dr. Offit has produced and released a documentary using the footage, and we are proud to host a screening of it. It's an excellent film, with fascinating historical footage, animations, and insights into the world of infectious diseases prevention. Please join us for the screening -- we think you'll really enjoy the film.

Posted in: General, Measles

May 12, 2016  Karie Youngdahl

The College of Physicians of Philadelphia is pleased to announce a public program on Monday, May 16, 2016, at 8 am (breakfast at 7:30am) on the Zika virus epidemic. Scott C. Weaver, PhD, of the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity at the Galveston (Texas) National Laboratory, and Professor, Departments of Pathology and Microbiology & Immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, will speak about current efforts toward understanding Zika virus pathophysiology and epidemiology and building an effective Zika virus vaccine. Paul A. Offit, MD, vaccine developer and chief of infectious diseases of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, will comment.

Posted in: General

April 20, 2016  Karie Youngdahl

At Tuesday’s sessions of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases Annual Conference on Vaccine Research, vaccine scientists were moderately hopeful about developing an effective Zika virus vaccine. Their hope stems both from precedent and from the relatively simplicity of Zika virus: several effective vaccines for related flaviviruses have been developed, and there appears to be only one serotype of Zika virus, unlike, for example, dengue virus, which has four types. Colonel Paul B. Keiser, MD, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, described the other flavivirus vaccines and the lessons they offer for Zika. Yellow fever vaccine has been used since the 1930s and is exceptionally effective, although it does present serious risks to certain individuals. An inactivated vaccine for tick borne encephalitis has been available in Europe since the 1970s. This vaccine doesn’t have the effectiveness profile of yellow fever vaccine and must be given in a three-dose series with boosters every 3-5 years. The Japanese encephalitis vaccine is another model for Zika vaccine: it is formalin inactivated and given generally in a three-dose series

Posted in: General, Public Health, Yellow Fever

April 18, 2016  Karie Youngdahl

At the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases Annual Conference on Vaccine Research, presenters drew pointed comparisons between the 2014-15 Ebola epidemic and the current Zika virus disease epidemic. A session on multi-sector global efforts to test an Ebola virus disease vaccine (EVD) brought together representatives from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Anne Schuchat, MD, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC, prefaced her talk by noting that the West African EVD epidemic was the largest outbreak CDC has been involved in and involved ten times as many cases as all previously known EVD outbreaks combined. So, she says, we learned a great deal about the disease that we hadn’t known before, such as the persistence of Ebola virus in body fluids long after initial infection.

Posted in: General, Public Health

March 16, 2016  Karie Youngdahl

Today's blog post is by Carley Roche, a recent graduate from Drexel University and an intern here at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. War is difficult on everyone, from the soldiers risking their lives to the civilians who get caught up in these violent affairs. While larger armies and more advanced weapons can aid in victory, an often overlooked variable in war chooses no allegiance: disease. One of the most devastating diseases throughout history during wartime has been typhus. Typhus is a bacterial disease caused by Rickettsia bacteria. There are two types of the disease--endemic typhus and epidemic typhus. Rickettsia typhi causes endemic typhus, also known as murine typhus, and is the least virulent. Spread to humans by fleas on animals such as cats, opossums, raccoons, and rats, most notably from the Norway rat, victims of endemic typhus will experience a bodily rash, high fever, nausea, vomiting, discomfort, and diarrhea. Rickettsia prowazekii causes epidemic typhus, which is spread via lice. Symptoms are similar to endemic typhus; they are, however, much more severe and can include delirium, hypotension, and even death.

Posted in: General

January 28, 2016  Karie Youngdahl

New information about Zika virus has been released practically every day since Brazilian public health authorities brought global attention to the emerging disease late in 2015. The news has mostly been alarming, with reports of a possible association between Zika virus infection and microcephaly and other birth defects in newborns and Guillain-Barré Syndrome in some of those infected. WHO warns that Zika virus could spread throughout the Western Hemisphere to all countries that have the mosquito host of the virus (the exceptions being Canada and Chile). El Salvadorean public health officials have urged women there not to become pregnant for two years, and locally transmitted cases have now been identified in 23 Western Hemisphere countries. 

Posted in: General