History of Vaccines Blog


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

September 19, 2018  Karie Youngdahl

Today's blog post about Spanish Influenza in Philadelphia is by College of Physicians of Philadelphia Librarian Beth Lander. Please join us at the Mütter Museum on September 29, 2018, for an event to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of beginning of the pandemic in Philadelphia. On September 7, 1918, 300 sailors arrived in Philadelphia from Boston, where, two weeks earlier, soldiers and sailors began to be hospitalized with a disease characterized as pneumonia, meningitis, or influenza. The sailors were stationed at the Philadelphia Naval Yard. On September 11, 19 sailors reported to sickbay with symptoms of “influenza.” By September 15, more than 600 servicemen required hospitalization. Physicians and other public health workers in Philadelphia first met on September 18 with city officials to discuss what they perceived as a growing threat. Public health officials demanded that the city be quarantined – all public spaces, including schools, churches, parks, any place people could congregate, should be closed. City officials did not want to create panic. They were more concerned that local support for President Wilson’s efforts in World War I should not be disturbed. Anything that would damage morale – or the city’s ability to raise the millions in Liberty Loans required by federal quota – was unacceptable. Read more...

Posted in: Historical Medical Library, Influenza, Public Health

September 10, 2018  Karie Youngdahl

Today's blog post is by John D. Grabenstein, RPh, PhD, Executive Director, Global Vaccines Medical Affairs, Merck Research Laboratories. He has published widely on the history of vaccine development, immunization policy, and pneumococcal and smallpox vaccination, among other topics. Trains were the primary mode of transportation; the trains stopped running. So many people died, cities ran out of wood for coffins. Churches cancelled services to slow the contagion. Hospitals across America erected canvas tents to cope with unprecedented numbers of patients. Despite desperate and contradictory advice on how to quell the epidemic, no medical effort existed that could help the people.  Read more...

Posted in: Influenza, Public Health

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

February 9, 2018  Karie Youngdahl

We're going to have to wait for some good news about this influenza season. That was the message at the close of another reporting week from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Acting Director Anne Schuchat. On a conference call to release updated influenza numbers for the week ending February 3, Schuchat told participants that key indicators for influenza activity have continued to increase. In fact, Schuchat noted, we may be on track to surpass recent records for flu activity. A key indicator of flu activity is the proportion of outpatient and emergency department visits attributed to influenza-like illness (ILI). That proportion for last week was 7.7%, higher than seen at the peak of the 2003-4 season (7.6%) and as high as the peak of the 2009-10 pandemic influenza season. The rate of hospitalizations was 59.9 per 100,000 population. Read more...

Posted in: Influenza, Public Health

January 26, 2018  Karie Youngdahl

Since my blog post last week about this influenza season, which noted that the season appeared to be more severe than normal but similar to the 2014-15 season, the situation has gotten worse. This season may be worse than any season since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. The percentage of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI), one of the main barometers of how widespread influenza is, has continued to increase for the week ending January 20. In fact, the percentage has surpassed that of any week of the 2014-15 season, and it still may not have peaked. ILI is now responsible for 6.6% of all outpatient visits. Influenza is widespread in 49 states and Puerto Rico. CDC's current influenza surveillance report is available here. Read more...

Posted in: Influenza, Public Health

January 19, 2018  Karie Youngdahl

Influenza activity has been ticking up as the 2017-18 flu season progresses. Twenty pediatric influenza deaths have occurred since the season began in October 2017. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent report for the week ending January 6 shows that 26 states are reporting a high level of influenza-like illness, and 12 states report a moderate level of activity. This influenza season is more severe and active than last season, and it closely resembles the 2014-15 season, which is regarded as a severe season. At this point in that season, 19 pediatric influenza deaths had occurred. For another point of comparison, the proportion of outpatient visits attributed to influenza-like illness (ILI) this week was 5.8%; in the same week of 2014-15, it was 4.4%. The CDC estimates that the 2014-15 season resulted in about 34 million cases of influenza and about 20,000 deaths related directly to influenza. Read more...

Posted in: Influenza, Public Health

December 5, 2017  Karie Youngdahl

For National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW), we interviewed Dalton G. Paxman, PhD, FCPP, Regional Health Administrator for the mid-Atlantic region of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). NIVW is a national observance established to highlight the importance of continuing influenza vaccination, as well as fostering greater use of flu vaccine after the holiday season into January and beyond. 1) Why is it important to get an annual flu vaccine Each flu season, the flu virus causes millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands or sometimes tens of thousands of deaths. Getting vaccinated protects you and the people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions. 2) Who should get a flu shot? Who shouldn’t? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older, including pregnant women, as long as flu viruses are circulating, which means it’s not too late to get vaccinated, even in January or later. However, there are groups of individuals who should not get the flu vaccine. Those groups include children younger than 6 months old and people with severe, life-threatening allergies to flu vaccine or any of its ingredients. Additionally, people who have an allergy to eggs or other vaccine ingredients, people who have ever had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and people who are feeling ill should consult with their doctor before getting a flu shot Read more...

Posted in: Influenza, Public Health

October 30, 2017  Karie Youngdahl

On October 18 we conducted our fourth annual influenza vaccination clinic here at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. By offering the clinic here, during work hours, and for free, we hope to reduce as many barriers to vaccination as possible, such as preventing the trip to the doctor or the pharmacy, overcoming inertia. Of course, we are also hoping to keep staffers, their families and friends, and building visitors healthy, too! We partnered with a service available from our health insurance provider to give the quadrivalent influenza vaccine on site. As an incentive, we gave a $10 Trader Joe's gift card to anyone who got the vaccine. Read more...

Posted in: Influenza

April 24, 2017  Karie Youngdahl

By 2017, will polio be eradicated? Will we have a new Lyme disease vaccine? Can we make influenza vaccines more effective? Vaccinologist Stanley A. Plotkin, MD, made a series of predictions for the field for the next ten years that included some hopeful answers to these questions, along with a more pessimistic take on the effect of the current political climate on vaccine acceptance and support for scientific research. Plotkin made his predictions at the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases Annual Conference on Vaccine Research in Bethesda, Maryland. But first, he reviewed his predictions from the 2007 conference when he completed a similar exercise.   Some of his 2007 predictions have come to pass: a new monovalent rotavirus vaccine was licensed, the rotavirus disease burden in developed countries that use the vaccine has been greatly reduced, and the HIV vaccine tested in the Thai trial showed partial efficacy. However, his prediction did not come to pass that by 2017 a prophylactic Type 1 diabetes vaccine for those at high genetic risk of the disease would be licensed. Read more...

Posted in: General, HIV, Influenza, Pertussis (whooping cough), Pneumococcal disease, Polio, Public Health, Rotavirus, Vaccine Research