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History of Vaccines Blog
Last night I had the pleasure of attending a talk here at the College by Bert Hansen, PhD, Professor of History Baruch College, City University of New York. Hansen has long written about the visual arts and the history of medicine, and his talk last night focused on the role of the visual arts in Louis Pasteur’s life and on Pasteur’s influence on artists and their work. Pasteur studied drawing as a young man, and Hansen showed examples of his portraiture -- nicely wrought depictions of Pasteur’s mother and father. (About 30 of Pasteur’s charcoals, pastels, and other works survive.) After he ended his art studies, Pasteur continued to participate in the lively visuals arts world in Europe, traveling to other countries to visit museums and exhibitions and attending the annual exhibitions and salons in Paris. Pasteur was not alone in his devotions; the government-sponsored exhibitions drew crowds of more than half a milion people each year.
September 24, 2014
On Monday, September 22, in Philadelphia, Matthias J. Schnell, PhD, of the Jefferson Vaccine Center, announced that one of his lab's Ebola virus vaccine candidates was moving into human trials. Funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Department of Defense will allow production of a clinical lot of the vaccine for a Phase 1 trial that could be completed as early as mid-2015 (see Anthony Fauci's testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee). Schnell addressed a gathering of diplomats, scientists, and large audience of students and healthcare professionals at Thomas Jefferson University to discuss the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Ambassadors of Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, and Guinea spoke about the difficulties of epidemic response in their countries, which are especially complex given the legacies of years of civil unrest there.
October 1, 2012
Philadelphia is an excellent place to learn about the history of vaccines, and The Wistar Institute, the country’s first independent biomedical research facility, is in great part responsible for this rich history. On Friday, September 28, Wistar Institute President and CEO Russel E. Kaufman, MD, spoke to a group of Wistar Institute friends and donors at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. (Wistar is in the midst of a major construction project and has limited meeting space.) He told that crowd that he wanted us to unlearn some things we think we know about vaccines. In particular, he mentioned that he wanted to draw our attention to the way that scientific advancement truly happens: typically, it doesn’t result from a brilliant insight, followed by a methodical plan of action. Rather, accidents, collaboration, and learning from the context of one’s scientific milieu are important factors that affect scientific progress.
May 23, 2012
Memorial Day is the traditional start to the summer season in the United States. While having fun and being with friends and family are always at the top of the list of things to do during summer, being safe and staying healthy should also be on our minds. There are some things to be mindful of when heading outdoors to parks and forests. These things include preventing bites from ticks and mosquitoes, cooking and storing food properly, wearing proper sunscreen, swimming safely, and rabies.
Rabies is a viral disease of mammals. While there are plenty of cases of rabies in animals in the United States, human cases are extremely rare, with one or two cases reported each year. This is because there is a robust public health system that responds to cases of possible and confirmed rabies exposure in humans. There is also a functioning veterinary health system -- and public policies -- that require immunization of household pets like cats and dogs. In the rest of the world, most of the 55,000 deaths from human rabies each year happen as a result of dog bites.
October 19, 2011
On October 12, the Philadelphia Neurological Society held one of its regular meetings at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and invited Paul A. Offit, MD, to speak to the membership. Offit, chief of infectious diseases at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), vaccine developer, and advisor to The History of Vaccines, greeted the membership with his first slide and title of his talk: “Why are neurologists scared of vaccines?” Though Offit’s title was tongue-in-cheek, it spoke to a tension he has perceived between neurology and vaccinology.
September 28, 2011
In honor of World Rabies Day, we’d like to draw attention to two rabies vaccines recently found in the collection of the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Museum curator Anna Dhody recently alerted us to a box of vaccines and other medical supplies she found in a little-visited storage area in the museum basement. The box belonged to a collection of medical equipment donated by James G. Kitchen II, MD (d. 1998), who was a Pocono Lake, Pennsylvania, physician and fellow of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Dr. Kitchen stocked the vaccine in his office supplies to address what was probably a fairly uncommon need in his practice: post-exposure rabies prophylaxis in humans.
May 6, 2010
In the United States, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issues written recommendations regarding scheduling and dosing of vaccinations for both children and adults. ACIP members are selected by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to provide advice on controlling vaccine-preventable diseases; the committee is the only federal unit to make these recommendations.
ACIP issues new and updated recommendations when the status of a given disease changes, or when new data suggests that a vaccine dosage or schedule should be changed. Recently, in response to rabies surveillance data, clinical studies, experimental work and other factors, the Committee issued new recommendations for prophylactic rabies vaccination after possible exposure to the virus.
Rabies is nearly always fatal after symptoms begin to appear. However, if an exposed individual is treated promptly (with proper wound care and the administration of rabies immune globulin and rabies vaccine), the disease can usually be prevented. The previous ACIP recommendations were for five doses of rabies vaccine following exposure; now, the ACIP has reduced the dosage schedule, recommending only four doses of the vaccine for exposed individuals without prior protection against the disease. The details of ACIP’s updated recommendations are available as part of the March 19, 2010 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.