Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Vaccine Race by Meredith Wadman

  • THE BOOK
    • The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics, and the Human Cost of Defeating Disease by Meredith Wadman
    • Published February 7, 2017
    • First work by author

  • THE PREMISE
    • Rubella, also known as German measles, was a scourge before the vaccination was developed in the 1960s.
      • If a pregnant woman was exposed to rubella her fetus would develop sever birth defects.
      • It is called German measles because German doctors first determined it was a separate disease from other types of contagious diseases
    • A man named Leonard Hayflick made a number of discoveries that led to the development of a vaccine by other researchers.
      • He discovered that human cells only divide for a limited amount of times in lab cultures (known as the Hayflick limit). Before this scientists thought the cells were immortal and would grow forever.
      • He developed the cell line called WI-38, created from the cells from an aborted fetus from a woman in Sweden.
    • Before the clean cell line of WI-38 was available scientists used animal tissues, especially from monkeys but also ducks and rabbits among others.
      • These sometimes caused reactions because there are sometimes hidden things in the cells of other animals.
    • So this book follows the entire path of the development of a vaccine that was safe and effective. There are many controversies inherent in such a topic (tissue from an aborted fetus, the current autism/vaccine standoff, etc...) and these are discussed in detail as well.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • Some interesting facts I learned concerned the timing of rubella epidemics in the United States in the 1960s.
      • An outbreak occurred from the winter of 1964 through the spring of 1965.
        • Outbreaks in those days traveled from the East Coast to the West Coast, so one would presume the early outbreak date occurred in the east and the later dates included the west.
          • This matters to me because members of my family were born in February 1964 (in the south central area so closer to the east) and January 1965 (west coast). This means the pregnant moms just missed being in the thick of an epidemic that might have harmed their babies.
    • I had the German measles in July 1969 and when the vaccine became available that year I got that too. 
      • In those days vaccines were given at schools. I assume this means it was free and paid for by the government, whether local or federal? I remember lining up with other kids at the local middle school and we all got our shots one after another. 
        • I cannot imagine this happening today!
    • But back to the book! I like reading books about how diseases function and how cures come to be so I really liked this one.
    • Recommended for those who enjoy reading about the subject too.
    • ★ ★ ★ ★

1 comment:

  1. Why kids of old did not like school: Trudge uphill five miles in the snow only to get a shot as a reward.

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