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How Childhood Vaccinations Continue to Evolve

Posted on Nov 07, 2023 by Brandon Russell

A child receiving a vaccine

Since the first successful vaccine was developed by Edward Jenner in 1796 and administered to 8-year-old James Phipps, vaccines have played a critical role in the overall public health landscape. 

Specifically, early childhood vaccinations have played a major part in the prevention, treatment, and, in some cases, eradication of diseases. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the combined DTP vaccine, which represents one of the first complex multi-focused vaccines to combat pervasive diseases. 

Since the DTP vaccine was first widely administered in the late 1940s, cases of diphtheria and pertussis have significantly declined. In the 1940s, cases of pertussis regularly exceeded 100,000 documented cases per year. In 1965, reported cases dropped below 10,000 cases.

Reported cases of pertussis have recently increased due to various factors, including a reduction in childhood vaccination. In 2019, there were 18,000 reported cases in the United States. 

Diphtheria infection rates have declined even more sharply. Before the vaccine was widely administered, the United States regularly saw 200,000 to 300,000 cases of diphtheria per year. Pre-1940, diphtheria was one of the leading causes of childhood morbidity worldwide.  

Due to widespread vaccination, diphtheria has become increasingly rare. From 1996 to 2018, there were 14 total reported cases of diphtheria in the United States. 

The DTP vaccine represented a watershed moment in modern medicine – the ability to greatly reduce the risk and impact of multiple diseases in a single vehicle.  

Adoption of combination diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccines into a single vehicle (today, the updated DTap, or Tdap vaccine) has reduced the number of recommended childhood doses through age 6 from 15 shots to five. 

This approach increases efficiency in busy clinical settings, reduces the risk of missing doses, and reduces the overall number of vaccines a patient needs to remain in compliance with current recommendations. 

Other vaccines, such as the MMR vaccine, have mirrored this approach and combined multiple individual vaccines into a combined vaccine. The result is fewer shots with the same protection. 

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Vaccines are widely considered one of the greatest medical achievements in modern medicine. However, their success in preventing, treating, and eradicating some of the deadliest diseases the world has ever seen has also created challenges. 

Childhood vaccine hesitancy has increased in the United States for many reasons. One reason being parents not considering vaccines necessary due to the relatively low occurrence of the diseases the vaccines prevent. 

Education continues to be the strongest tool medical professionals have to reassure parents that childhood vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary. 

To ensure safety and efficacy of vaccines, appropriate storage and handling procedures must be in place. Vaccine administrators have a responsibility to manage and maintain proper storage practices at the provider level. 

Until recently, vaccine storage was a bit of a black box. Providers know to store vaccines in a refrigerator or freezer until ready for use, but what kind of refrigerator or freezer? That question was often left unanswered and has resulted in significant vaccine waste. 

The CDC has created the Vaccine Storage and Handling Toolkit, which outlines best practices for vaccine storage and handling. 

The toolkit recommends storing vaccines in “purpose-built” units designed for vaccine storage. It outlines key features and functionality necessary to ensure proper storage and make the overall vaccine management easier for end-user healthcare professionals. 

The CDC, in partnership with NSF, ANSI, vaccine manufacturers, clinicians, and vaccine storage equipment manufacturers, has taken some of the guesswork out of choosing vaccine storage equipment with the development of the NSF/ANSI 456 Vaccine Storage Standard. 

The standard applies CDC best practices to refrigerators and freezers marketed to store vaccines. Significant performance testing and feature requirements have been built into the certification process. Certified units must be tested and validated by approved third-party laboratories to earn certification. 

All vaccine refrigerators and freezers manufactured by Helmer come standard with NSF/ANSI 456 Vaccine Storage Standard certification. They have undergone and passed all required third-party laboratory testing and meet or exceed the performance and feature requirements. 

This standard makes it easier to choose the best equipment for vaccine storage. Choosing certified equipment reduces the risk of vaccine loss due to storage in improper equipment and helps ensure vaccines are readily available when they are needed. 

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Brandon Russell

Written by Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell is a senior marketing manager, covering the vaccine and pharmacy segments. He has more than five years of marketing experience.

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