04 Jan Alana’s book review
The first book I want to review is called Vaxxers by Sarah Gilbert and Catherine Green. I read this one a couple of months ago as I, like so many other people, had a whole lot of questions about the vaccines that were developed for Covid-19.
I had read the actual peer reviewed published article on the phase one trials of the AstraZenica vaccine (and am happy to provide a copy if anyone else is so inclined to read it) but I had other questions. How was it developed so quickly? Did it go through proper testing? Were the trials inclusive of all age brackets and ethnicities?
This book is written by two of the main researchers of the AstraZenica vaccine, Sarah Gilbert and Catherine Green. It explains how they had been working on vaccines for Ebola when they heard of a new virus that was affecting people in Wuhan. It also discusses how they essentially had a vaccine developed for what they discussed as ‘Disease X’ knowing that the next dangerous virus could emerge at any time. This research started with SARS about a decade ago. When the genetic code had been mapped out for Covid-19, they essentially just needed to add that to what they had been developing for many years. I thought of it as pre preparing a stock for soup and then just adding in meat and veges down the track when you knew what type of soup you wanted!
All of my other questions were answered as I read the book.
Spoiler alert – it was all done so quickly as there was no barrier to funding. There was plenty of money from plenty of sources to have tests and trials conducted as quickly as possible.
One part that really interested me, was when some samples were made in the EU and they were unable to get them back to the UK due to flight shutdowns, they chartered a jet for their vials, so that the research could continue as quickly as possible.
Normally researchers would need to reapply for more funding many times during a project, but this time the money was there to continue to move forward as quickly as possible.
It was also decided that it would be a not-for-profit vaccine. I believe the cost is about $5 per dose in Australia.
We all now know about herd immunity and how important it is for the majority of the population to be vaccinated. This vaccine has the ability to do this, as the cost is possible for most governments around the world to fund.
I also found it interesting that these people that developed this vaccine are normal people with normal lives working at a university. They had families to look after, mortgages to deal with and day to day living through a pandemic to cope with, whilst conducting such important research that has undoubtedly saved millions of lives.
I would highly recommend reading this book if you too had questions or just want to have a good read!
*Chosen as a Book of the Year by the Financial Times, Sunday Times, Daily Mail, Prospect, Guardian and The Times*
Some other short reviews:
“What an enthralling tale of toil, tenacity and triumph this is. The authors’ intelligence, idealism and sheer, bloody-minded grit shine through. The world needs all the Sarah Gilberts and Catherine Greens it can get. Just brilliant. “- Rachel Clarke
“This is one of the most epic and pioneering moments in human history, comparable to the race to put a man on the moon, the discovery of DNA, or the first ascent of Everest. The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is a triumph and its creators are life savers. Science is the exit strategy, as long as we make that science equitably available to the world – as all the incredible people behind the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine always intended – truly the “People’s Vaccine”. – Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust
“[Sarah Gilbert] has been the adult in the room and the accidental leadership figure the moment demands, embodying the competence, command of the detail, vision and, crucially, hope, that people have needed to see. “― New Statesman
“This Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine has provided the single best piece of news from the pandemic so far, allowing us to accelerate our vaccine programme, which we know will save lives and provides the long-term solution to this pandemic.” – Matt Hancock, Health Secretary ― The Times