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History of Vaccines Blog


February 9, 2018  Karie Youngdahl

We're going to have to wait for some good news about this influenza season. That was the message at the close of another reporting week from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Acting Director Anne Schuchat. On a conference call to release updated influenza numbers for the week ending February 3, Schuchat told participants that key indicators for influenza activity have continued to increase. In fact, Schuchat noted, we may be on track to surpass recent records for flu activity. A key indicator of flu activity is the proportion of outpatient and emergency department visits attributed to influenza-like illness (ILI). That proportion for last week was 7.7%, higher than seen at the peak of the 2003-4 season (7.6%) and as high as the peak of the 2009-10 pandemic influenza season. The rate of hospitalizations was 59.9 per 100,000 population. Read More...

Posted in: Influenza, Public Health

January 26, 2018  Karie Youngdahl

Since my blog post last week about this influenza season, which noted that the season appeared to be more severe than normal but similar to the 2014-15 season, the situation has gotten worse. This season may be worse than any season since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. The percentage of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI), one of the main barometers of how widespread influenza is, has continued to increase for the week ending January 20. In fact, the percentage has surpassed that of any week of the 2014-15 season, and it still may not have peaked. ILI is now responsible for 6.6% of all outpatient visits. Influenza is widespread in 49 states and Puerto Rico. CDC's current influenza surveillance report is available here. Read More...

Posted in: Influenza, Public Health

January 19, 2018  Karie Youngdahl

Influenza activity has been ticking up as the 2017-18 flu season progresses. Twenty pediatric influenza deaths have occurred since the season began in October 2017. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent report for the week ending January 6 shows that 26 states are reporting a high level of influenza-like illness, and 12 states report a moderate level of activity. This influenza season is more severe and active than last season, and it closely resembles the 2014-15 season, which is regarded as a severe season. At this point in that season, 19 pediatric influenza deaths had occurred. For another point of comparison, the proportion of outpatient visits attributed to influenza-like illness (ILI) this week was 5.8%; in the same week of 2014-15, it was 4.4%. The CDC estimates that the 2014-15 season resulted in about 34 million cases of influenza and about 20,000 deaths related directly to influenza. Read More...

Posted in: Influenza, Public Health

December 12, 2017  Karie Youngdahl

In 2018 people in the United States over age 50 will have the opportunity to take a new, highly effective, long-lasting vaccine for shingles. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine, Zoster Vaccine Recombinant, Adjuvanted (tradename Shingrix, manufactured by GSK) on October 20, 2017. On October 25, the U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend the vaccine for adults over age 50. The ACIP action specifically recommends Shingrix over Zoster vaccine, live (tradename Zostavax, manufactured by Merck), the only other licensed shingles vaccine. Additionally, ACIP recommends that adults who have already taken Zostavax be vaccinated with Shingrix. Read More...

Posted in: Varicella zoster

December 5, 2017  Karie Youngdahl

For National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW), we interviewed Dalton G. Paxman, PhD, FCPP, Regional Health Administrator for the mid-Atlantic region of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). NIVW is a national observance established to highlight the importance of continuing influenza vaccination, as well as fostering greater use of flu vaccine after the holiday season into January and beyond. 1) Why is it important to get an annual flu vaccine Each flu season, the flu virus causes millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands or sometimes tens of thousands of deaths. Getting vaccinated protects you and the people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions. 2) Who should get a flu shot? Who shouldn’t? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older, including pregnant women, as long as flu viruses are circulating, which means it’s not too late to get vaccinated, even in January or later. However, there are groups of individuals who should not get the flu vaccine. Those groups include children younger than 6 months old and people with severe, life-threatening allergies to flu vaccine or any of its ingredients. Additionally, people who have an allergy to eggs or other vaccine ingredients, people who have ever had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and people who are feeling ill should consult with their doctor before getting a flu shot Read More...

Posted in: Influenza, Public Health

October 30, 2017  Karie Youngdahl

On October 18 we conducted our fourth annual influenza vaccination clinic here at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. By offering the clinic here, during work hours, and for free, we hope to reduce as many barriers to vaccination as possible, such as preventing the trip to the doctor or the pharmacy, overcoming inertia. Of course, we are also hoping to keep staffers, their families and friends, and building visitors healthy, too! We partnered with a service available from our health insurance provider to give the quadrivalent influenza vaccine on site. As an incentive, we gave a $10 Trader Joe's gift card to anyone who got the vaccine. Read More...

Posted in: Influenza

September 28, 2017  Karie Youngdahl

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. Read More...

Posted in: Public Health, Tetanus

September 12, 2017  Karie Youngdahl

The prestigious Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for 2017 goes to two scientists who did groundbreaking work conceptualizing and developing a vaccine for human papillomavirus, the pathogen responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer and for many other cancers as well. Prize recipients Douglas R. Lowy, MD, and John T. Schiller, PhD, of the National Cancer Institute (U.S. National Institutes of Health) devised a unique solution to a vaccine for an oncogenic (cancer-causing) virus. Read More...

Posted in: HPV, Vaccine Research

August 8, 2017  Karie Youngdahl

Today's blog post is by Mütter Museum and History of Vaccines intern Carley Roche. The Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia has a vast collection of medals, pins, and ribbons representing some of the most significant events and people in medical history. Recently I have had the opportunity to reorganize and rehouse this collection. This project has allowed me to closely inspect each item in this particular collection. Below are a few medals representing some of the most influential moments and players in the history of vaccines. Since antiquity historians have written records of disease outbreaks that may have been cholera. However, the seven major pandemics of the disease started being recorded in the early 19th century as knowledge of the disease grew. The second cholera pandemic, which reached East Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and the Americas claimed the lives of more than 400,000 people from 1829-51. The featured medal’s inscription is in French--Paris, with a population of 650,000 at the time, took a devastating loss of 20,000 people to cholera. Read More...

Posted in: Cholera, General, Tuberculosis

July 11, 2017  Karie Youngdahl

A year of measles outbreaks in Europe have led to 35 deaths and more than 12,000 confirmed cases. Thirty-one of the measles deaths have occurred in Romania, where years of declining measles-containing vaccine (MCV) coverage is taking its toll. For 2015, the World Health Organization estimates two-dose MCV coverages at 88% of Romanian children, down from a high of 97% coverage in 2003. Measles remains endemic in 14 European countries. In most countries experiencing outbreaks this year, measles immunization rates are much lower than the 95% coverage needed to support herd immunity.Italy alone has recorded 3,300 confirmed cases of measles and one death this year to date – the last time the US, obviously a much larger country, recorded more cases was in 1991, the year of a major epidemic. Read More...

Posted in: Measles, Public Health