History of Vaccines Blog


January 25, 2011  Anonymous

Because influenza viruses frequently mutate, a new seasonal flu vaccine is developed each year in order to keep up with the circulating strains. Each year, the vaccine provides protection against three strains: two influenza A strains and one influenza B. The flu vaccine for the 2010-2011 flu season provides protection against a 2009 H1N1 A strain, H3N2 A strain, and an influenza B strain Read More...

Posted in: General, Public Health, Influenza

January 24, 2011  Anonymous

Join us for a stimulating evening on Tuesday, March 1, when The History of Vaccines brings Paul A. Offit, MD, and Seth Mnookin to speak at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Both have newly published books – Offit’s Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All, and Mnookin’s The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear – and both have been prominent voices in the recent national media coverage of Andrew Wakefield’s 1998 Lancet paper that attempted to link MMR vaccination to autism. Offit, an infectious disease physician and vaccine developer, and Mnookin, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, will discuss their new books and have a conversation about the past and future of vaccination as depicted in the media, among parents, and in the medical world. A question-and-answer session with the audience will follow. Registration for this free event is required. Read More...

Posted in: General

January 14, 2011  Anonymous

History of Vaccines blog readers have been sending us their recollections from the landmark 1954 trial of Jonas Salk’s inactivated poliovirus vaccine. We had posted several of their stories to our blog as comments on an earlier blog post, but they disappeared in a transition to our new website. Recently, a kind blog reader saw our request for a photograph of a Polio Pioneer card. So we’re using this as an opportunity to post the photo and assemble the recollections of the Polio Pioneers and polio survivors who have written to us. Clearly, they all have vivid memories of their part in the trial, and most look back with pride on their contribution. Mrs. K___ sent us a photo of the card (reproduced here) marking her participation in the trial. As Mrs. K____ wrote, "I remember lining up to get the shots. I thought I was in kindergarten, but it turns out I was probably in 1st grade. There were 2 lines. Some of the children got the real vaccine, and some got the placebo (we thought it was water). There was a series of three, so we always had to go on the line we were sent to. After the test was over our parents were told who had gottten the real vaccine and who had gotten the placebo. Lucky for me I had gotten the real because the children that did not get the real had to get the shots all over again. I was glad I didn't have to go through it again.” And, also from Mrs. K____, a bit later: “As I recall now, I remember there were three rows.  I just remembered the two rows because I wouldn't have had any thought of what the children in the third row had gotten (or not), so I just remembered the two rows. Now that I saw the picture, from Kansas, on your website, that was exactly what it was like.” Indeed, Mrs. K____’s memories are probably correct: kindergartners were not enrolled in the trial. Children in grades 1-3 were included: in some communities, first graders received the injections, and in others, children in all three grades were vaccinated. Mrs. K____ participated in the trial in Queens, New York, and was obviously enrolled in one of the vaccinated/placebo parts of the trial. (In some areas, community members objected to employing a control group that received injected placebos. Rather, these communities established observed control groups of children who did not receive any type of injection and who were simply observed for signs of polio infection.) Read More...

Posted in: Polio

January 6, 2011  Anonymous

A January 5, 2011 report in the BMJ investigates the 1998 paper that first alleged a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The author, Brian Deer, presents evidence that the paper resulted from research fraud. The History of Vaccines blog looks at the history of the paper and how it has profoundly affected research, public health, and the public perception of vaccines over the last 12 years. In the wake of a paper published in the Lancet in 1998, vaccination rates in Britain plummeted. The lead author of the paper, Andrew Wakefield, rose to infamy as a result of his claims that the combination measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine had caused autism in the 12 children in the study, and frightened parents began to delay or completely refuse vaccination for their children, both in Britain and the United States. Since then, outbreaks of previously eliminated diseases have sickened and killed children in both countries. Read More...

Posted in: General, Measles, Public Health, Vaccine Research

January 3, 2011  Anonymous

Influenza is a challenging disease for vaccine researchers. At any given time, multiple influenza strains are circulating, and immunity against one strain does not necessarily provide protection against others. In addition, influenza A viruses frequently mutate, so that it is difficult to find a "target" within the virus that will remain stable between various strains and mutations. As a result, the current approach for developing flu vaccines is based on observations of the strains most likely to be circulating in the coming flu season. The seasonal flu vaccine contains three inactivated strains of influenza, but typically can't provide protection against other strains. Now, the results of a recent study in mice suggest that a new approach may be able to provide long-lasting, cross-strain protection against influenza. Read More...

Posted in: General, Influenza, Public Health, Vaccine Research

January 3, 2011  Anonymous

Renowned vaccinologist Stanley A. Plotkin, MD, creator of the rubella vaccine used throughout most of the world, helped inaugurate the History of Vaccines website with his November 3 lecture entitled "Four Centuries of Vaccinology." This lecture is now available to view here on the History of Vaccines blog. The video features footage of Dr. Plotkin's lecture as well as the slides that accompanied his talk. Dr. Plotkin, who was an instrumental figure in the development of rubella, polio, rabies, varicella, rotavirus, anthrax, and other vaccines, traces the serendipitous beginnings of vaccinology in the 1700s to its flowering in the latter half of the 20th century. Additionally, he highlights the relationship of vaccinology to industrial and technological developments, as well as the special role of Philadelphia institutions and researchers in vaccine development. Especially interesting is a description of an exchange with Albert B. Sabin, MD, at scientific meeting in the late 1960s, when Sabin objected to Plotkin's (and others') use of cell lines derived from human fetal tissue. Read More...

Posted in: General

December 17, 2010  Project Director

We are thrilled to announce that The History of Vaccines epidemic game is now available! Illsville: Fight the Disease is a game that takes players on a journey through history and health, as the townspeople of Illsville attempt to identify diseases and develop vaccines for them. Decision points based on historical events influence the outcome of the game: Should scientists be given microscopes to further their investigations? Will creating a live or killed vaccine be more effective? Players can deploy doctors, quarantines, and educators to combat outbreaks. An unsuccessful game ends when disease wipes out the population of Illsville. A successful game ends with a healthy, vaccinated population.   Read More...

Posted in: General

December 7, 2010  Anonymous

Research for new articles about typhoid fever and cholera have kept us busy in The College's Historical Medical Library over the past week, and as usual, we stumbled across some great holdings. One that we particularly wanted to share was this map showing deaths from typhoid fever and malaria in Washington, D.C., from 1888-1892. Click on the image or click here to be taken to its page in the Gallery, where you can zoom in on the map to see how the diseases affected the city's districts. With red dots representing deaths from typhoid, and blue representing deaths from malaria, the map documents 626 typhoid deaths and 363 from malaria over the five-year period. Read More...

Posted in: General, Historical Medical Library, Malaria, Public Health

December 6, 2010  Anonymous

In the United States, meningitis is thought of as an extremely rare disease. It usually appears in the news when a college student has fallen ill, amid reminders by public health officials that a meningococcal vaccine can protect against diseases caused by Neisseria meningitidis bacteria, including meningitis. In 2008 (the most recent year for which data are available) only about 1,100 total cases of meningococcal disease were reported in the United States, and meningitis cases were only a fraction of that number. In other parts of the world, however, meningitis takes a much larger toll. In Sub-Saharan Africa, an area that spans from Senegal to Ethiopia is called the “meningitis belt” because of the epidemic waves that occur there, some lasting as long as three years. The largest epidemic wave in history led to more than 25,000 meningitis deaths from 1996 to 1997. In 2009 alone, more than 88,000 cases were reported. Now, a new vaccine developed specifically for use in Africa offers hope that future epidemics may be prevented. Read More...

Posted in: General, Meningococcal disease, Public Health

December 1, 2010  Anonymous

There are two vaccines, Gardasil (made by Merck) and Cervarix (made by GlaxoSmithKline), approved to prevent cervical cancer caused by HPV (human papillomavirus). Both vaccines protect against HPV strains 16 and 18, which are estimated to account for 70% of cervical and vaginal cancer cases. Gardasil (human papillomavirus [HPV] vaccine, quadrivalent) also offers protection against two strains that cause genital warts. Gardasil was the first of the two vaccines to be introduced in the United States. In 2006, it was approved for use in preventing cervical cancer and genital warts for girls and women between nine and 26 years of age. Since then, based on additional data, it has also been approved for the prevention of vulvar and vaginal cancer, and for the prevention of genital warts in boys and men between nine and 26 years of age. Now, new data have led a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel to recommend expanding the vaccine's use to include the prevention of anal cancer, a disease whose incidence doubled in the United States between 1975 and 2007. Read More...

Posted in: General, HPV, Public Health