Monday, March 12, 2012

Vaccination then and now

As I mentioned in an earlier class vaccines become victims of their own success. As the diseases they cause become rare and fade from our memory we tend to focus on the possible side effects of the vaccine - sometimes real, sometimes imagined.

However when the actual disease in in your neighborhood, crippling and paralyzing children then you queue around the block to get your child their vaccination shot.

One fact I didn't mention in lecture was that neither Jonas Salk nor Albert Sabin (who invented the oral polio vaccine) patented their vaccines - they donated the rights as gifts to humanity. In fact there's a fairly famous story about Jonas Salk, who worked at the University of Pittsburgh, being asked by a reporter “Who owns your polio vaccine?” On hearing the question, Dr. Salk looked at the reporter and said “Who owns my polio vaccine? The people! Could you patent the sun?”

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