nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
See here for more discussion.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Life Cycle of a Vaccine

Great webpage by the Centers for Disease Control.  It explains why we go through cycles of disbelief and crazy notions about vaccines.  Note that this is a model but it fits with what we've seen historically with real vaccines.  I've reviewed the data on polio and measles, and used them in lectures: they both follow the pattern above.

If you can't read the labels, Red is disease, Blue is vaccine, and Green is side effects.  The key thing is to see how at stages 4, 5, and 6, that, as the disease goes away, people stop taking the vaccine, and the disease comes back.  This is a psychological phenomenon:  "there's no threat any more, why should I take the vaccine?"  Consequently the irrational scare stories start to gain traction...until the disease re-emerges and people start going "uh-oh, the disease is back." 

Sadly, the attention span of human populations is sometimes so short that we've seen multiple cycles of re-emergence.  Measles is a great example here, too:  we're still seeing swings because pseudo-science causes part of the population to decline the MMR vaccine, until press reports of outbreaks in universities catch their attention again...and again...and again..  We're probably stuck with measles for a long time due to cognitive dysfunction.

Sometimes we're our own worst enemy.

For a more complete explanation, see the original webpage.

By the way, the President's new budget cuts funding for anthrax vaccine development.  Have a nice day when the next bio-attack occurs.

Doc D

Opinions are entirely my own

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