February 1, 2017

History, Epi, Lab Science, Crystal Ball Gazing
Count Me In! Click Here to Register

Getting Ready for Next Time … Because There WILL BE a Next Time:
Progress, Setbacks, and Challenges in the Development of an Ebola Vaccine


Barbara Mahon, MD, MPH

CDC Lead
Sierra Leone Trial to Introduce a Vaccine Against Ebola (STRIVE)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Clubhouse Location:
Wine & Cheese: SOM Commons Area
Presentation: WHSCAB Auditorium
Moveable Feast Agenda:
6:00pm — wine, cheese, networking at SOM
6:30pm — meeting convenes at WHSCAB
7:45pm — casual buffet dinner and more networking at at SOM

Dear Vacciners,
In a letter that he wrote to French scientist and fellow lightning bolt enthusiast Jean-Baptiste Le Roy in 1789, Benjamin Franklin famously said: "Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death* and taxes."

Pause for thought.

It would have been totally accurate if Mr. Franklin had also added "disease outbreaks" to the list.

Back in the 14th century wave after wave of Black Death (bubonic plague) spread so widely and killed so many people that it took 300 years for Europe's population to once again reach pre-plague levels.

Not to be outdone, the North American smallpox epidemic of 1775-1782 (18th century) caused successive population crashes from Canada to New Orleans, Alaska to Mexico, and everywhere in between – including within every native American tribe on the continent – prompting the actions that led us to name our own General George Washington, Ret. as VDC President Emeritus-for-Eternity**).

In the 20th century multiple waves of a super deadly influenza pandemic raced around the planet until between one fifth and one third of everyone living at that time had become infected, leading to upwards of 50 million deaths.

And then came the 21st century and Ebola.

The West African Ebola outbreak first reported in 2014 killed five times more people than the cumulative total from all previous documented outbreaks of Ebola in history. Maybe even more since the difficulty in collecting accurate data suggests that the official death toll (11,315) underrepresents reality. Yes, even at its height, Ebola didn't have the global reach of plague, smallpox, and influenza but try using that as words of consolation to people in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

I know what you are thinking …

You are thinking: "Please tell me that Ebola won't come back. I don't want to have to worry about Ebola and Zika and HIV and Taxes all at the same time!!"

Fortunately for all of us, there is a strike team at the CDC who is doing the worrying for us and is STRIVEing to make sure that the Hot Zone is vaccine-ready for Ebola, the next time it arrives.

Because there WILL be a next time…

Hope to see you and your guests for Dinner at the Club on February 1st,
(Register now)

*According to a table found here, there were a lot of ways that Benjamin Franklin could have died in those days. These include: apoplexy, cramp in the stomach, decay, drinking cold water, infantile flux, mortification, spasms, teething, and white swelling.

** In 1777 General Washington turned the tide of the American Revolution by having his entire army (then wintering at Valley Forge) secretly variolated against smallpox, a scourge that John Adams had two years earlier bemoaned as "...ten times worse than the British, Canadian, and Indians together."

The fear of smallpox was so great during the Revolution that Gen. Washington found it almost impossible to recruit new soldiers, directly engage the (rumored to be infectious) enemy, or force his troops to enter British-held towns where smallpox epidemics were raging.

The variolation at Valley Forge had to be done in secret because soldiers were incapacitated (read: utterly defenseless) for awhile after innoculation and the British forces, had they found out, could have simply marched in and captured the entire American army in one fell swoop, with little resistance.

The gamble worked though and the rest, as they say, is history.