‘The Vaccine Race' Is a Drama of Science and Religion, Birth Defects and Abortion, Business and Politics

The names capture our attention and raise visceral fears. Today it is Zika and Ebola. In the recent past it was measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox and, of course, polio. The roll of human viral diseases goes on, as does the battle to cure or prevent them. That battle, notes science journalist Meredith Wadman in The Vaccine Race, begins with science but quickly expands to include business, religion -- and inevitably politics. It is a story of human tragedy and greatness, of curiosity and ambition, of turf battles and ethical lapses, and of what we would call today "fake news" and "alternative facts" about the use of cells from an aborted fetus. At the center of the story, Wadman places Leonard Hayflick, who in 1962 was a 34-year-old junior scientist at Philadelphia's Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology. "His boss, the famous polio-vaccine pioneer Hilary Koprowski," writes Wadman, "saw him as a mere technician, hired to serve up bottles of lab-grown cells to the institute's impressive cadre of biologists."   Continue reading...

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