The Unique Story Of Vaccines In Brief

Thanks to the discovery of vaccines that have reduced drastically the deaths of millions of children each year from infectious diseases like measles, polio, and whooping cough. Even knowing most of the diseases have been eradicated with years of vaccination program across the world, but many in different corners are rejecting it.

polio vaccine

A debunked theory among many people in the United States says vaccines cause autism and hence it need to be avoided. Health workers in Afghanistan and Pakistan are always attacked by some Islamic groups believing the Western has plotted to make their children infertile with it.

There’s interesting facts in the development of vaccines and those are jotted in the book The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease by Meredith Wadman.

She has explained scientists have agreed there is no link between vaccines and autism. Her book has investigated the science that has led to the development of important vaccines.

The book reveals prisoners were used as human guinea pigs in the testing of vaccines and how cells of Mrs. X, as named for a Swedish woman, was used in developing many of the world’s vaccines.

smallpox vaccine

The cell of Mrs. X is named WI-38. In 1962 the Swedish woman having several children decided not to have another child and was able to obtain abortion at four-month pregnancy. The fetus was dissected at the Karolinska Institute by virologist named Sven Gard.

Leonard Hayflick, a young biologist from Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, obtained the fetuses quietly from the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. He was trying to create a cell line from the lungs of it with a view to serve as a tool while making vaccines in safe environment.

Before this process scientists used monkey kidney cells to make the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines, but the cells were later found containing SV40 that caused lethal cancers in laboratory hamsters. This was extremely concerned by regulators even though the vaccines were great public health victory of the time.


In 1962 Hayflick created about 800 tiny vials from the cells of Mrs. X fetus. Each vial had a couple of million cells in it and each cell could multiply to about another 40-50 times. This made supply almost infinite and the line is being used.

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