Tag: smallpox eradication

January 18 – This Day in Vaccine History

Would folks be more likely to get vaccinated and protected if they remembered what it was like in the pre-vaccine era?

Since anti-vaccine folks like to make it sound like cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, and everything else are caused by vaccines, will they be surprised to know that in addition to now vaccine-preventable diseases, they were big killers in the pre-vaccine era?
Since anti-vaccine folks like to make it sound like cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, and everything else are caused by vaccines, will they be surprised to know that in addition to now vaccine-preventable diseases, they were big killers in the pre-vaccine era?

A lot of people died of diseases that are now vaccine-preventable, and no, you can’t simply thank better hygiene and nutrition instead of vaccines for saving all of those lives.

A lot of people were still getting smallpox in 1920.
A lot of people were still getting smallpox in 1920.

Since the smallpox vaccine has been around for hundreds of years, can you believe that people were still getting and dying of smallpox 100 years ago?

How about 50 years ago?

January 18, 1970 - everyone was excited about all of the progress that was being made in getting smallpox under control.
January 18, 1970 – everyone was excited about all of the progress that was being made in getting smallpox under control.

That’s hard to imagine, isn’t it, as it was long known how to control smallpox with quarantines and vaccination.

On January 18, 1870, the Chicago Tribune described how Chicago was getting smallpox under control - by getting folks vaccinated.
On January 18, 1870, the Chicago Tribune described how Chicago was getting smallpox under control – by getting folks vaccinated.

Still, it took a long time before smallpox was finally declared eradicated.

And with smallpox under control, fifty years ago, many communities were eager to get kids vaccinated and protected to stop measles.

This paper in Nebraska announced "Stop Measles Day" on January 18, 1970.
This paper in Nebraska announced “Stop Measles Day” on this day in vaccine history – January 18, 1970.

Something changed once we got these diseases under control though.

Can you guess what it was?

Todd Wiley was convicted of manslaughter for shaking his child, but his “DPT defense” made the papers for months, including this article on January 18, 1995.

There were more and more vaccine scare stories in the media. Initially they were about the DPT vaccine and they then moved on to MMR once Andrew Wakefield hit the scene.

The Disneyland measles outbreak was well underway on January 18, 2015.

And even though none of the stories were true, that didn’t stop them from influencing people.

Have we learned our lesson?

Do we need to repeat history?

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are obviously necessary.

Anti-vax groups are raising money in Maine and elsewhere to influence parents and politicians and new vaccine laws.
Anti-vax groups are raising money in Maine and elsewhere to influence parents and politicians and new vaccine laws.

Vaccinate and protect your kids. Don’t bring back these deadly diseases.

More on History of Vaccines

If Measles Was Eliminated, Why Do We Still Have Measles?

Measles has been declared eliminated in the United States.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that we totatly got rid of measles.

When Was Measles Eliminated in the United States?

That becomes clear when you realize that there were 86 cases of measles in the United States when measles was eliminated.

When was that?

Back in March 2000.

What Does Measles Elimination Really Mean?

So why do we still have measles if it was eliminated already?

It’s because elimination is not eradication.

Measles is much more contagious than smallpox, which is part of the reason we are stuck in the measles elimination phase.
Measles is much more contagious than smallpox, which is part of the reason we are stuck in the elimination phase.

And even then, technically measles itself hasn’t been eliminated in the United States.

The Endemic Spread of Measles

Only the endemic spread of measles has been eliminated.

“Endemic measles transmission is the existence of any continuous indigenous chain of transmission of measles virus that persists for >1 year in any defined geographic area (e.g., the United States).”

Orenstein on Defining and Assessing Measles Elimination Goals

That’s why we still have measles. All of the cases we do now have are either imported or linked to a case that was imported.

Unfortunately, as our measles outbreaks get longer and harder to control, it could be that we soon lose our designation of having eliminated measles and all of the progress that went with it.

More on Measles Elimination in the United States

Would Osler Stand for Anti-Vaccine Folks Using His Famous Quote?

I often find myself having to reset my irony meter after reading some of the anti-vacccine memes and posts that people send me.

Like when anti-vaccine folks quote the Founding Fathers

Would Osler Stand for Anti-Vaccine Folks Using His Famous Quote?

Or they quote William Osler…

You remember William Osler, don’t you?

In 1910, as smallpox outbreaks continued and anti-vaccine folks made it harder to get folks vaccinated, he wrote:

“I would like to issue a Mount-Carmel-like challenge to any ten unvaccinated priests of Baal. I will go into the next severe epidemic with ten selected, vaccinated persons and ten selected unvaccinated persons – I should prefer to choose the latter – three members of Parliament, three anti-vaccination doctors (if they can be found), and four anti-vaccination propagandists.

And I will make this promise – neither to jeer nor jibe when they catch the disease, but to look after them as brothers, and for the four or five who are certain to die, I will try to arrange the funerals with all the pomp and ceremony of an anti-vaccination demonstration.”

William Osler on Man’s Redemption of Man

Want to vote on whether Osler would pick Jim Meehan to be one of the anti-vaccination doctors for his challenge?

Anyway, the Osler quote that Meehan posted, about not taking medicine, doesn’t mean what he thinks it means.

Osler wasn’t telling folks to not take any medicines.

“Osler himself prescribed relatively few drugs, his basic armamentarium consisting of quinine for malaria, digitalis for heart failure, opiates for pain and coughs, and iron and arsenic for anemia.”

Would Osler stand by his famous quote today?

He just meant that folks should avoid medicines that weren’t necessary and had no chance of working. Medicines, at the time, which often did more harm than good.

While you likely could apply his statement to the overuse of antibiotics, he certainly wasn’t talking about vaccines!

More on Would Osler Stand for Anti-Vaccine Folks Using His Famous Quote?

How Many Vaccines Did Kids Get in the 1960s?

You have likely heard about the explosion in vaccines and vaccine dosages for kids, right?

Although it is easy to see that today’s counts are inflated to scare folks, it is a little harder to figure out about the good old days, when folks still got measles, mumps, Hib, hepatitis B and meningococcemia.

Did they get 2 vaccines or 5 vaccines or what?

How Many Vaccines Did Kids Get in the 1960s?

Well, maybe it isn’t that hard to figure out…

We could look in some old issues of Pediatrics and see how we used to vaccinate and protect kids back then.

And what would we find?

Kids got multiple doses of DPT, DT, polio, and smallpox vaccines in 1960.
Kids got multiple doses of DPT, DT, polio, and smallpox vaccines in 1960.

Using the same anti-vaccine math that gets us to 72 doses today, these kids in 1960 got 31 doses!

Remember, with anti-vaccine math, each DPT shot counts as 3 vaccines…

Looks like they’re going to have to fix the ad on their truck!

And all of the propaganda they put out trying to scare folks into thinking kids get so many more vaccines than they used too.

More on Immunizations Schedules from the 1960s?