Alexander Langmuir is typically described as a hero or titan of public health.
Then why do some folks think he was against the flu and measles vaccines?
Who is Alexander Langmuir?
Dr. Alexander Langmuir has been called the father of infectious disease epidemiology.
In 1949, he established the CDC’s Epidemiology Program. Actually, at the time, the CDC was still called the Communicable Disease Center.
Dr. Langmuir, as Chief Epidemiologist at CDC for 21 years, also:
- founded the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS)
- instituted a malaria surveillance system
- established national disease surveillance system for the United States
- was involved in resolving the Cutter incident
- brought the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report to CDC
- investigated the swine influenza virus vaccine incident, when it was thought that some people developed GBS after getting the new swine flu vaccine in 1976
His work saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
Did he ever tell folks to not get a flu shot?
Was he ever concerned about mercury in flu shots?
Considering that Dr. Langmuir died in 1993, before folks became concerned about thimerosal in vaccines, that’s unlikely. That’s especially so considering that the only place you can find these types of quotes are on anti-vaccine websites.
Still, Langmuir was critical of flu shots.
“From this appraisal of the experience in the past three and one-half years, it is apparent that progress in the control of influenza has not been impressive.”
Langmuir et al. on The Epidemiological Basis For The Control Of Influenza
He didn’t think that they worked well enough. Or more importantly, he didn’t think we had enough information about how well they worked.
“Our information regarding the occurrence of influenza is largely qualitative. Schools close, absenteeism increases, medical services become taxed, virus isolations and serological identifications are made in great numbers, and daily accounts appear in our newspapers and on television. We know we have an epidemic and we know its specific cause, but we have few quantitative measures of incidence, age- and sex-specific attack rates, and character and severity of complications. Further- more, we have only crude data regarding mortality. We do not know what proportion of excess deaths occurs among reasonably active and productive citizens in contrast to deaths among persons who are already invalids suffering from severely debilitating pre-existing disease. Despite this serious deficiency we base our recommendations for vaccine use largely on mortality experience. We undertake major efforts to produce influenza vaccine in large amounts, but we have no meaningful information regarding its actual distribution. We do not know to what extent it actually reaches persons at highest risk.”
Langmuir et al. on A Critical Evaluation of Influenza Surveillance
But he wasn’t anti-vaccine.
And he never said that flu shots weren’t safe.
“The availability of potent and effective measles vaccines, which have been tested extensively over the past 4 years, provides the basis for the eradication of measles in any community that will raise its immune thresholds to readily attainable levels.”
Langmuir et al. on Epidemiologic Basis For Eradication Of Measles In 1967
And concerning all that he did in the field of public health, he is certainly not someone that anti-vaccine folks should be quoting.
More on Alexander Langmuir
- Alexander D. Langmuir-His Impact on Public Health
- Alexander Langmuir Dies at 83; Helped Start U.S. Disease Centers
- Alexander Langmuir: A Titan of Public Health
- Alexander Duncan Langmuir
- Alexander Langmuir, MD, MPH
- Dr. Alexander Langmuir
- The Alexander D. Langmuir Collection
- Alexander D. Langmuir Papers
- James Buffington Jr. and Lois Chapman Buffington Endowment for the Alexander D. Langmuir Prize
- A History of Success Investigating Public Health Threats
- Alexander D. Langmuir—A Brief Biographical Sketch: With Emphasis on His Professional Activities
- Alexander D. Langmuir—His Impact on Public Health
- Training Field Epidemiologists: Alexander D. Langmuir and the Epidemic Intelligence Service
- Implementing the Concepts of William Farr: the Contributions of Alexander D. Langmuir to Public Health Surveillance and Communications
- Statistical Methods in Public Health: The Influence of Alexander D. Langmuir
- Infectious Disease Epidemiology
- Airborne Disease: Including Chemical and Biological Warfare
- Veterinary Public Health and Alexander D. Langmuir
- Contributions of Alexander D. Langmuir to the Epidemiologic Study of Population Change and Family Planning
- Cancer, Environmental Health, and Birth Defects—Examples of New Directions in Public Health Practice
- Passing the Epidemiologic Torch from Farr to the World: The Legacy of Alexander D. Langmuir
- Epilogue: Alexander Duncan Langmuir
- Alexander D. Langmuir—A Pictorial
- Poliomyelitis Vaccination
- The Epidemiological Basis For The Control Of Influenza
- Epidemiologic Basis For Eradication Of Measles In 1967
- A Critical Evaluation of Influenza Surveillance
- Medical Importance of Measles
- The Epidemic Intelligence Service of the Center for Disease Control.
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