Vaxxers Book Summary - Vaxxers Book explained in key points
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Vaxxers summary

Sarah Gilbert and Catherine Green

The Inside Story of the Oxford AstraZeneca Vaccine and the Race Against the Virus

4.3 (148 ratings)
24 mins
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    Scientists were researching viral outbreaks and developing vaccines for years before COVID-19 was ever identified.

    Coauthor Cath Green was staying at a campsite in northwestern Wales when she and her friend struck up conversation with a fellow camper. When Cath lamented the lack of cell phone signal, the camper expressed skepticism about the new 5G towers being installed around the UK – even though no associated health risks have been found.

    At least, Cath’s friend joked, this person wasn’t saying that 5G caused COVID-19 or that Bill Gates was inserting microchips into everyone through vaccines.

    The camper replied that actually, while there might not be a conspiracy, she didn’t know what went into these vaccines and she didn’t trust the people making them. She called these people them.

    Little did she know that them meant Cath. She knew exactly what was in one of the soon-to-be approved vaccines. In fact, she was part of the research lab at the University of Oxford that had developed it.

    The key message here is: Scientists were researching viral outbreaks and developing vaccines for years before COVID-19 was ever identified.

    To people like that camper in Wales, it might seem like the COVID-19 vaccines were created too quickly and under mysterious circumstances. But the truth is that scientists were already preparing for something like COVID years before the first recorded case. The official name of the virus is SARS-CoV-2, and it’s neither the first coronavirus nor the first to cause SARS – that is, severe acute respiratory syndrome – in humans.

    In November 2002, a previously unknown coronavirus – which came to be called SARS-CoV – was identified in a province in China. It caused pneumonia, and by the end of the outbreak in June 2003, 774 people had died. Public health efforts managed to contain the spread of infection through the traditionally effective methods of contact tracing and quarantine. There was no vaccine, and at the time, no demand for one. It was unclear if or when this coronavirus would return.

    Coronaviruses are often found in bats, and most usually stay in bat populations, never reaching humans. With SARS, bats likely transmitted the virus to other mammals more commonly exposed to humans. That’s also what happened with the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome, also known as MERS-CoV, in 2012. MERS was detected in camel populations in the Middle East, and spread to humans in close proximity to them by way of vapor droplets sent into the air when the camels breathed, sneezed, or coughed.

    With each new outbreak, scientists and public health organizations learned more about which responses were most effective in containing viruses and which needed improvement.

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    What is Vaxxers about?

    Vaxxers (2021) follows the race to develop a functional vaccine to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Professor Sarah Gilbert and Dr. Catherine Green, of the University of Oxford, deliver captivating and informative insight into the process of designing, testing, and manufacturing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in record time. They recount exciting moments of innovation, as well as the hurdles faced along the way.

    Who should read Vaxxers?

    • Anyone fascinated by vaccine development
    • Public health enthusiasts 
    • Futurists looking to prepare for the next big pandemic

    About the Author

    Professor Sarah Gilbert is Saïd Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford and the co-founder of Vaccitech, a biotechnology company which develops vaccines and immunotherapies. Professor Gilbert specializes in developing vaccines for various viruses, including influenza, and co-developed the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. This is her first book.

    Dr. Catherine Green is Associate Professor in Chromosome Dynamics at the University of Oxford’s Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics. Along with Professor Gilbert, Dr. Green also worked on developing the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Though she is the author of numerous research studies, this is her first book.

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