Vaccination Against Influenza - 1918

Fighting Influenza in Seattle. Flu Serum Injection, Seattle, Washington Circa December 1918.

Fighting Influenza in Seattle. Flu Serum Injection, Seattle, Washington Circa December 1918. National Archives and Records Administration RG 165-WW-269B-9. NARA ID # 45499307. GGA Image ID # 1509e463e1

WARNING against too much confidence in the published accounts of the efficacy of influenza vaccine is given editorially by The Journal of the American Medical Association (Chicago, November 9).

According to this journal, we have no record of any properly conducted and controlled experiments on human beings with influenza vaccines. No results of careful observations are as yet at hand.

These things being so, the writer asks, what should a fair-minded and thoughtful physician say as to the face value of influenza vaccine? He goes on:

"Vaccination against epidemic influenza is in a. wholly experimental stage. Nothing can be learned as to its real value from indiscriminate vaccination of the public.

"The physician who, in view of the severity of the epidemic, feels that he is justified in vaccinating his patients, should be fair to them and protect himself by informing the patient that he regards the procedure as wholly of an experimental nature.

"Pending developments, nothing should be done by the medical profession that may arouse unwarranted hope among the public and be followed by disappointment and distrust of medical science and the medical profession."

Doubt on so-called "official" influenza statistics in cities and towns is thrown by Dr. George A. Soper, of the United States Sanitary Corps, in an article contributed to Science (New York, November 8). Says Dr. Soper:

"The total number of cases of influenza in the present outbreak, inside and outside of the army camps, will never be accurately known. Although it is beyond doubt that the disease which is prevalent in the camps is the same as that which is widely distributed in civil life, it is not to be assumed that all the cases which occur are officially reported or that every case which is supposed to be influenza is really that disease.

"At this season of the year there are always epidemics of colds and other respiratory infections. The weather this year has been particularly favorable to their occurrence. Under the present conditions of public anxiety, it is but natural that all cases of illness which at all resemble influenza should receive that designation.

"The net result of all the factors which enter into the matter is confusion. The army records have been systematically tabulated and studied from the first. When the pandemic has subsided the information to be derived from these data should be of much permanent value."

"Vaccination Against Influenza," in The Literary Digest, New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, Vol. LIX, No. 13, Whole No. 1497, 28 December 1918, p. 25.

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