Rubella vaccine developer and History of Vaccines advisor Stanley A. Plotkin, MD, appeared on CSPAN’s Washington Journal to discuss the history of vaccination and the U.S. government’s role in regulating vaccines.
Dr. Plotkin described the long history of vaccination (and early immunization practices) in colonial America and United States, beginning with smallpox variolation. A number of callers then phoned in with questions about vaccine safety, how vaccines are tested, and whether Andrew Wakefield’s work attempting to link MMR vaccination to autism has been vindicated. Plotkin countered one caller’s claim that new childhood vaccines are not tested as part of the complete immunization schedule by describing concomitant use studies that ensure that safety and immunogenicity are not compromised with the addition of new vaccines to the schedule.
To one caller’s assertion that the United States is spending $1 trillion on malaria research, treatment, and prevention, we’d like to point out this graph showing total U.S. expenditures on malaria over the past ten years (closer to $50 billion).
With the exception of the first call, in a which a woman asked how ethical standards are maintained in child vaccine studies, all of the calls were from people who seemed to be distrustful of vaccines. To them, we’d like to quote from a Wistar Institute publication about rubella and its devastating consequences. “Thanks to a Wistar vaccine, rubella – also known as German measles – no longer threatens the health of U.S. babies. Professor emeritus Stanley A. Plotkin, M.D., began work on the vaccine during the 1960s after a rubella pandemic swept across the United States and Europe and left some 12,000 infants deaf, blind, or with both impairments. His vaccine became available in 1969 and gained widespread use in industrialized nations, sending the rubella infection rates into rapid decline. In 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared rubella eradicated in the United States, crediting Plotkin’s vaccine. In developing nations, however, rubella remains a threat. In countries without strong mass vaccination programs, rubella outbreaks still cause severe birth defects, miscarriages, and stillbirths.”