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History of Vaccines Blog
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.
July 19, 2011
In October 2010, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issued a new recommendation for Tdap vaccination -- the booster vaccine that provides protection against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). While the vaccine had previously been recommended as a one-time booster for adults up to age 64, replacing an individual tetanus booster, the committee voted to expand that recommendation: anyone older than 65 who had not received a prior dose of Tdap should receive one if they expected to have close contact with an infant younger than 12 months old.
This recommendation was made partially in light of the California whooping cough epidemic. While whooping cough is typically less severe in adults, the infection can still be passed to infants, for whom infections are much more severe. Study data has indicated that grandparents, for example, are the ultimate source of the infection in 6-8% of cases. However, the committee noted that there was a direct benefit to the individual as well, since whooping cough tends to be more severe in adults older than 65 than in younger adults. (For more details, see "Advisory Committee Votes for Expanded Pertussis Vaccine Recommendations" from the History of Vaccines blog.)
Although this recommendation was issued last October, some adults older than 65 who wanted to receive a Tdap booster had difficulties obtaining one due to confusion between the ACIP's recommendation and the FDA's approved label usage for the vaccine at the time. Neither of the two Tdap vaccines (Sanofi Pasteur's Adacel and GlaxoSmithKline's Boostrix) was approved by the FDA for use in adults older than 65.
February 22, 2011
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on February 22 on Bruesewitz vs. Wyeth, upholding a federal law that established protection for vaccine makers from lawsuits and that provides compensation for certain vaccine injuries.
The Bruesewitz suit claimed that a vaccine Hannah Bruesewitz received in 1992 (her third dose of the diphtheria-whole cell pertussis-tetanus vaccine) was defective in its composition and thus resulted in the girl’s seizures and developmental delays. The Bruesewitz family earlier had been denied compensation from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion, stating that "Vaccine manufacturers fund from their sales an informal, efficient compensation program for vaccine injuries; in exchange they avoid costly tort litigation and the occasional disproportionate jury verdict." He asserted that the intention of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 (which established NVICP) to exclude drug design defects from liability claims is evident in its “lack of guidance for design defects combined with the expansive guidance for the grounds of liability specifically mentioned.”
August 5, 2010
In 1954, Thomas C. Peebles, MD, was working in the laboratory of John F. Enders, PhD, at Boston Children’s Hospital. Earlier, Enders had contributed to work on tissue culture that helped in the development of vaccines for polio; now, he wanted Peebles to focus on the measles.
During an outbreak of the disease at a private school outside of Boston, Peebles set out to isolate the measles virus. After getting permission from the school’s principal, Peebles collected blood samples from each of the sick boys at the school, telling them: “Young man, you are standing on the frontiers of science.”
On February 8, Peebles succeeded, collecting measles virus-laden blood from 13-year-old David Edmonston. This virus would eventually be used to create measles vaccines, and, the measles component of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine used today is still grown using the Edmonston strain.