History of Vaccines Blog

April 20, 2016  Karie Youngdahl

At Tuesday’s sessions of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases Annual Conference on Vaccine Research, vaccine scientists were moderately hopeful about developing an effective Zika virus vaccine. Their hope stems both from precedent and from the relatively simplicity of Zika virus: several effective vaccines for related flaviviruses have been developed, and there appears to be only one serotype of Zika virus, unlike, for example, dengue virus, which has four types. Colonel Paul B. Keiser, MD, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, described the other flavivirus vaccines and the lessons they offer for Zika. Yellow fever vaccine has been used since the 1930s and is exceptionally effective, although it does present serious risks to certain individuals. An inactivated vaccine for tick borne encephalitis has been available in Europe since the 1970s. This vaccine doesn’t have the effectiveness profile of yellow fever vaccine and must be given in a three-dose series with boosters every 3-5 years. The Japanese encephalitis vaccine is another model for Zika vaccine: it is formalin inactivated and given generally in a three-dose series

Posted in: General, Public Health, Yellow Fever

April 18, 2016  Karie Youngdahl

At the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases Annual Conference on Vaccine Research, presenters drew pointed comparisons between the 2014-15 Ebola epidemic and the current Zika virus disease epidemic. A session on multi-sector global efforts to test an Ebola virus disease vaccine (EVD) brought together representatives from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Anne Schuchat, MD, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC, prefaced her talk by noting that the West African EVD epidemic was the largest outbreak CDC has been involved in and involved ten times as many cases as all previously known EVD outbreaks combined. So, she says, we learned a great deal about the disease that we hadn’t known before, such as the persistence of Ebola virus in body fluids long after initial infection.

Posted in: General, Public Health

March 25, 2016  Karie Youngdahl

The World Health Organization is reporting a yellow fever outbreak in Angola that began in late 2015. Since the last reported yellow fever cases in Angola occurred more than 30 years ago, this epidemic, with more than 450 cases and 178 deaths, is alarming. The yellow fever virus is carried by mosquitoes, which infect humans with the virus as the female insects feed on blood. In Africa, 34 other countries are subject to yellow fever, but case counts have been declining in recent years. Yellow fever vaccination is part of the routine infant immunization schedule in most countries at risk for the disease. However, yellow fever immunization coverage is nowhere near universal: in Angola, it has ranged from a low of 37% of eligible infants covered in 1997 to 49% in 2013 and 77% in 2014.

Posted in: Yellow Fever

March 16, 2016  Karie Youngdahl

Today's blog post is by Carley Roche, a recent graduate from Drexel University and an intern here at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. War is difficult on everyone, from the soldiers risking their lives to the civilians who get caught up in these violent affairs. While larger armies and more advanced weapons can aid in victory, an often overlooked variable in war chooses no allegiance: disease. One of the most devastating diseases throughout history during wartime has been typhus. Typhus is a bacterial disease caused by Rickettsia bacteria. There are two types of the disease--endemic typhus and epidemic typhus. Rickettsia typhi causes endemic typhus, also known as murine typhus, and is the least virulent. Spread to humans by fleas on animals such as cats, opossums, raccoons, and rats, most notably from the Norway rat, victims of endemic typhus will experience a bodily rash, high fever, nausea, vomiting, discomfort, and diarrhea. Rickettsia prowazekii causes epidemic typhus, which is spread via lice. Symptoms are similar to endemic typhus; they are, however, much more severe and can include delirium, hypotension, and even death.

Posted in: General

March 10, 2016  Karie Youngdahl

The College of Physicians of Philadelphia is pleased to announce a public program on May 16, 2016, at 8 am on the Zika virus epidemic. Scott C. Weaver, MS, PhD, of the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity at the Galveston (Texas) National Laboratory, and Professor, Departments of Pathology and Microbiology & Immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, will talk about current efforts toward building an effective Zika virus vaccine. Paul A. Offit, MD, vaccine developer and chief of infectious diseases of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, will comment.

Posted in: Public Health

January 28, 2016  Karie Youngdahl

New information about Zika virus has been released practically every day since Brazilian public health authorities brought global attention to the emerging disease late in 2015. The news has mostly been alarming, with reports of a possible association between Zika virus infection and microcephaly and other birth defects in newborns and Guillain-Barré Syndrome in some of those infected. WHO warns that Zika virus could spread throughout the Western Hemisphere to all countries that have the mosquito host of the virus (the exceptions being Canada and Chile). El Salvadorean public health officials have urged women there not to become pregnant for two years, and locally transmitted cases have now been identified in 23 Western Hemisphere countries. 

Posted in: General

January 14, 2016  Karie Youngdahl

On January 15, 2016,  Philadelphia organizations associated with Benjamin Franklin celebrate his 300th birthday with a day of events organized around some of the founding father's most lasting contributions. In the morning, panelists will discuss Franklin's contributions to public health during his time and the way those contributions have continued to influence institutions and practices in Philadelphia and beyond. Speakers are Penny Heaton, MD, Director, Vaccine Development, Global Health Program, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Walter Tsou, MD, former Philadelphia Health Commissioner; and Stanley A. Plotkin, MD, vaccine developer and History of Vaccines Advisory Board member.

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December 16, 2015  Karie Youngdahl

The Pennsylvania Coalition for Informed Consent (PCIC) formed in March 2015, in the wake of the measles outbreaks that began in December 2014. During that time, Pennsylvania legislators introduced a bill to eliminate philosophical belief exemptions to school vaccinations, to which PCIC objected. PCIC has ties to the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), a group that provided strategic support at the time of PCIC's founding. PCIC is neither, they say, for nor against vaccination, and their mission is “to preserve the vital personal freedom and human right to informed consent, privacy, and choice for medical procedures in Pennsylvania.” Clearly, though (and this is easy to glean from their Facebook), they are hostile to vaccination.

Posted in: General, Public Health

December 12, 2015  Karie Youngdahl

For National Influenza Vaccination Week, we welcome Dalton G. Paxman, PhD, MA, FCPP, Regional Health Administrator for the mid-Atlantic region, where he oversees public health initiatives for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Dr. Paxman is a Fellow here at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. 

Posted in: Influenza

October 1, 2015  Karie Youngdahl

Yesterday we conducted our second annual influenza vaccination clinic here at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. By offering the clinic here, during work hours, and for free, we are hoping to reduce as many barriers to vaccination as possible, such as the trip to the doctor or the pharmacy, needing one's insurance card, inertia. Of course we are also hoping to keep staffers, their families and friends, and building visitors healthy, too! We partnered with a local RiteAid pharmacy to give the vaccine, and to provide an incentive, we gave a $10 Trader Joe's gift card to anyone who got the vaccine. The first year I began tracking uptake of influenza vaccine here (2012) only 43% of full-time staff took the vaccine. In 2013, I conducted a brief influenza vaccination awareness campaign and about 70% staffers took the vaccine. Last year, after offering the vaccine here in the building, we were up to 86%, or 38 of 44, vaccinated staffers, including those who’d been vaccinated elsewhere.

Posted in: Influenza