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History of Vaccines Blog


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

September 28, 2017  Karie Youngdahl

The World Health Organization has reached another disease elimination milestone: the organization announced on September 21, 2017, that maternal and neonatal tetanus have been eliminated from the WHO Region of the Americas. This achievement comes after a concerted campaign in Haiti to prevent the disease through intensive immunization campaigns, improved surveillance, and attention to safe birth and umbilical care practices. Tetanus is a serious infection with particularly high case-fatality rates in neonates, who may contract the disease via unhygienic birth practices and through improper handling of the umbilical cord and stump. Tetanus has an unusual elimination threshold – unlike other disease that have been eradicated (smallpox) or eliminated regionally (polio, rubella, and measles in the Americas for example), tetanus is not passed person-to-person. Read more...

Posted in: Public Health, Tetanus

July 11, 2017  Karie Youngdahl

A year of measles outbreaks in Europe have led to 35 deaths and more than 12,000 confirmed cases. Thirty-one of the measles deaths have occurred in Romania, where years of declining measles-containing vaccine (MCV) coverage is taking its toll. For 2015, the World Health Organization estimates two-dose MCV coverages at 88% of Romanian children, down from a high of 97% coverage in 2003. Measles remains endemic in 14 European countries. In most countries experiencing outbreaks this year, measles immunization rates are much lower than the 95% coverage needed to support herd immunity.Italy alone has recorded 3,300 confirmed cases of measles and one death this year to date – the last time the US, obviously a much larger country, recorded more cases was in 1991, the year of a major epidemic. Read more...

Posted in: Measles, Public Health

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

February 21, 2017  Karie Youngdahl

Are you a glass half empty or glass half full type of person? Your orientation along the optimism-pessimism spectrum will determine whether you think this year’s seasonal influenza vaccine is a moderate success or near failure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its interim estimate of the 2016-17 influenza vaccine effectiveness (VE) last week: the vaccine appears to be 48% effective at preventing physician-attended influenza illness.This VE estimate is similar to last year’s estimate of 47% VE. You can see a table of VE for 2004-16 here. How does the CDC get these data? CDC used five study sites, where they enrolled patients aged ≥6 months seeking outpatient medical care for an acute respiratory illness (ARI) with cough, within 7 days of illness onset. Researchers interviewed study subjects or their parents to collect respiratory specimens, demographic data, health status, symptoms, and 2016–17 influenza vaccination status. Specimens were tested at U.S. Flu Vaccine Effectiveness Network laboratories using CDC’s real-time reverse transcription – polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) protocol for detection and identification of influenza viruses. Read more...

Posted in: Influenza, Public Health

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.  Read more...

Posted in: General, Public Health

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.” Read more...

Posted in: General, Public Health