Science, Politics, and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease

As Meredith Wadman completed "The Vaccine Race," more than 2,000 babies in 19 countries were born with abnormally small heads and other brain damage after their mothers were infected with the Zika virus while pregnant. Zika’s recent emergence is a vivid reminder of what life was like in the United States in 1964, when a German measles vaccine did not exist and 20,000 American babies were born with physical abnormalities because their mothers contracted the German measles virus while pregnant. "The Vaccine Race" tells the timely, epic, and controversial story of how cells from a single human fetus were used to create a vaccine that ensured that the disaster of the mid-1960s was never repeated.

Wadman’s critically-acclaimed account also details the political roadblocks that nearly stopped the scientists. She describes the terrible dilemmas of pregnant women exposed to German measles and recounts vaccine testing on infants, prisoners, orphans, and intellectually disabled children, which was common in the era. The story unfolds at the dawn of the battle over using human fetal tissue in research, during the arrival of big commerce in campus labs, and as huge changes take place in the laws and practices governing who "owns" research cells and the profits made from biological inventions.

"The Vaccine Race" was named a Washington Post Notable Book of 2017. It was nominated for the Andrew Carnegie 2018 Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction and was shortlisted for the prestigious Wellcome Book Prize. The Guardian named it the second-best science book of 2017.

About the Author

Meredith Wadman lives in Arlington and works as a reporter for Science in Washington, D.C. A doctor by training, she found her calling as a writer – and a passionate vaccine advocate – while working as a medical student during the Apartheid era in South Africa. There, she watched malnourished toddlers die from measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases. After completing medical school at Oxford, Wadman earned a master’s degree in journalism at Columbia. Her work has appeared in Nature, Fortune the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere.

Copies of the book will be available for sale by One More Page Books.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018
6:30pm - 7:30pm
Longfellow Room
Westover Branch Library
Events for Adults 18+ Only Good for Adults Age 55+ Good for Parents Good for Young Professionals (Lit Up)
Author Talk Lecture

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