What a “polio pioneer” wants you to know about vaccines

Children that participated in the 1954 field trials of the Salk vaccine were dubbed "polio pioneers." (Used with permission of University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library, U-M Alumni Association, Box 137.)

Children that participated in the 1954 field trials of the Salk vaccine were dubbed “polio pioneers.” (Used with permission of University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library, U-M Alumni Association, Box 137.)

My colleagues and I care for and often counsel families about the importance of vaccination.

Recently, as part of World Immunization Week, Oxford University Press published a blog post written by our own Janet Gilsdorf, MD.  In her wonderfully written post, Dr. Gilsdorf offers a unique perspective both as a doctor and as a “Polio Pioneer” during the 1950’s, a time when she and many other children participated in the massive clinical trial of the Salk vaccine.

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What can flu history teach us about this year’s outbreak?

A Q&A with U-M medical historian Howard Markel, M.D., Ph.D.

New York policeman with flu mask - 1918

A New York City policeman wears a mask to avoid catching the 1918 flu.

The flu is back in force this year — especially a strain that attacks younger, healthier people and can cause serious, even life-threatening, illness.

Fortunately, this year’s vaccine can protect against it — unlike in 2009, when the same strain of the virus arrived after the vaccine was made.

And it’s a far better situation than back in 1918, when a slightly different strain killed 650,000 Americans.

Those two historic outbreaks can teach us a lot, says University of Michigan Medical historian and pediatrician Howard Markel, M.D., Ph.D. His team has studied flu history for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Q: What does studying past flu outbreaks teach us about flu? Isn’t this a virus we know a lot about already?
A: What’s really interesting is that as much as we know, we still don’t know that much about flu. We know more than we did in 1918 – but we still don’t have a lot of good information. Continue reading

The 2013 flu shot: What’s new and why get it now

Heart attack protection, egg-free formula and more

flu-shotNow is a great time to roll up your sleeve because the flu vaccine takes two weeks to kick in, says Dr. Pamela  Rockwell, D.O., a family physician at the University of Michigan Health System who is fellowship-trained in vaccine science. Everyone 6 months of age and older is recommended to get their yearly flu vaccine, ideally by October.

More must-know flu season information

Some of this year’s vaccine covers more strains.  New this year, many vaccines cover four strains of flu — the ones believed to be the most common in the upcoming flu season — but some include just three. Translation: broader protection. One vaccine isn’t recommended over another. The important thing is to get a flu vaccine every year.

Protection against heart attacks? A flu shot greatly reduces the risk of being hospitalized or dying from flu complications, plus new research shows flu vaccine may lessen the risk of heart attack. As reported online in Heart, those who were vaccinated were 45% less likely to have an acute myocardial infarction (heart attack).

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