History of Vaccines Blog


October 18, 2018  Rene F. Najera

With only a few weeks to go before the midterm elections, I've noticed more and more vaccine-related news having to do with the views and opinions of candidates for office. For example, in Oregon, The Daily Beast is reporting that the Republican candidate for governor "wants weaker vaccine laws": "Knute Buehler, a physician who currently serves as a state representative, responded to a recorded question about vaccinations by saying that he backed parental rights to opt out even absent a medical basis for doing so. “As a physician, I certainly believe in the benefits of vaccination but I also think that parents should have the right to opt out,” Buehler said. “To opt out for personal beliefs, for religious beliefs or even if they have strong alternative medical beliefs. And that has been beneficial. I think that gives people option and choice and that’s the policy I would continue to pursue as Oregon’s governor.” Buehler’s answer is at odds with the vast majority of medical literature, which touts the necessity of a social contract around vaccinations in helping to stop the re-emergence or spreading of infectious diseases. Under current Oregon law, parents are able to exempt children from vaccination under specific circumstances: that they talk to a medical provider or watch an online video about the benefits of vaccines." Read More...

Posted in: General, Public Health

October 12, 2018  Rene F. Najera

It’s Friday, so sit back, relax, and read up on some vaccine-related news. This week, we tell you about some new research on the community-level impact of vaccinating elementary school children against influenza, how authorities in San Diego are dealing with an outbreak of bacterial meningitis, and news on vaccine research against Rabies, Lassa Fever and Ebola. Read More...

Posted in:

October 10, 2018  Rene F. Najera

You've probably heard the story of Edward Jenner and his smallpox vaccine a million times. Here's a quick animated video re-telling the story of Dr. Jenner's discovery and he tested his hypothesis. Read More...

Posted in: General

October 8, 2018  Rene F. Najera

Once in a while, a vaccine comes along that is capable of saving millions of lives. For example, the rotavirus vaccine prevents about half a million deaths from diarrhea in children, according to some estimates. Another vaccine that is making history is the HPV vaccine. Not only does it prevent genital warts, it also prevents cancer. The way it does this is by preventing an HPV infection that causes changes at the cellular level in different kinds of tissues that the Human Papillomavirus infects. Those changes lead to the activation of what are called "oncogenes," genes that tell the cell to start multiplying out of control, leading to cancer. Now comes news that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has expanded the use of Gardasil 9, a vaccine against Human Papillomavirus (HPV), to be given to people up to the age of 45. Read More...

Posted in: General

October 5, 2018  Rene F. Najera

Every week, we trawl the different news services for anything related to vaccines, vaccine science, and vaccine-preventable diseases. Here is a quick synthesis of some of most notable news. (All from reliable sources.) Read More...

Posted in: General

October 4, 2018  Rene F. Najera

Hello! My name is René F. Najera, and I’m an epidemiologist. Well, I’m a lot of things, like father, husband, and brother, but my profession is epidemiologist. Epidemiology is the study of that which comes upon the people. By “that,” we mean those diseases and conditions that threaten health and wellbeing. These could be everything from infectious diseases to chronic conditions like diabetes or even poverty. We take information from all available sources, analyze it, and then put it to work. Once in a while, we go to “hot spots” to fight outbreaks and such. If my name sounds familiar to you, it’s because I’ve written for History of Vaccines before... Read More...

Posted in: General

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

August 8, 2018  Karie Youngdahl

Just last year, in the midst of ongoing measles outbreaks, Italian lawmakers cracked down on parents who avoided vaccinating their children enrolled in public schools. Parents would be fined if their children were not in compliance with 10 vaccination requirements by age 6.  On Friday, August 3, a new coalition of populist and conservative legislators in the Italian Senate reversed direction, passing a measure that would eliminate the requirement that parents demonstrate their schoolchildren are immunized. The measure was supported by the recently ascendant Five-Star Movement and the League (Lega). Five Star had promised, if elected, to address the vaccination requirements.  Read More...

Posted in: General, Measles, Public Health