Focus: Epidemiology, Pathology, History
Attendance: 0
Clubhouse du Jour: N/A

Two Down, Hundreds to Go:
The Sordid Life and Unlamented Death of Rinderpest
(the 2nd ever disease to be eradicated from the planet through human action)

Corrie Brown, DVM, PhD, DACVP

Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor
Department of Veterinary Pathology
College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Georgia

Happy New Year!!
I hope that as we ease into 2011, you have been making excellent progress on your New Year’s resolutions. I’m betting that some of you decided to shoot for the stars (broker world peace, become proficient in an obscure amazon rain forest dialect, and fit back into your favorite bikini/speedo from college) and that some of you elected to strive for more modest goals (successfully arbitrate the seating plan for the next family reunion, become proficient in a local teenage dialect no later than 3 days after the terminology has become passé, and avoid gaining more than one clothing size per six month period).

But WHATEVER your resolutions are, you should attend the January meeting of the VDC to help celebrate the fact that public health has already successfully kept one of ITS most ambitious resolutions for the 21st century ... namely the global eradication of a disease that:

No, not smallpox — we got rid of that way back in the 20th century.
I’m speaking of Rinderpest — the ickiest, most devastating disease you probably never heard of.

Rinderpest doesn’t kill people, it kills cattle and buffalo.
Millions of them.

In fact, within days to weeks of its appearance in a region (frequently accompanying invading armies, carried by resistant but virus-shedding trojan horse Gray Steppe oxen), there would be no bovines left to till the fields, move people or goods to market, serve as a family's bank account, fulfill bride-price obligations, or feed and clothe the population. Which in turn led to mass starvation, social chaos, and history’s first ever school of veterinary medicine (1762, Lyons France).

But 249 years after the founding of that first vet school Rinderpest has finally been VANQUISHED!

Ding, Dong, the Pest is dead.
The wicked Pest, the Pesky Pest,
Ding Dong the Rinderpest is dead!!

Want to hear the exciting story about how that happened? RESOLVE NOW to come to the January VDC!!

Hope to see you for dinner at the Club on January 12th,
-Kimberley, la VDC Goddess


February 2

Focus: Basic Science
Attendance: 247
Clubhouse: WHSCAB (1440 Clifton Rd)

Blessing the Bronchioles:
Prospects for Preventing RSV Disease

Peter JM Openshaw, FMedSci, PhD FRCP

Centre for Respiratory Infection
National Heart & Lung Institute
Imperial College London (St. Mary's Campus)
Great Britian

As anyone who has ever provided care simultaneously for a baby and an “old old” grandparent knows, people at the two edges of life have a lot in common.  

Among other things, they both:

That last commonality is particularly poignant because, among other things, babies and the elderly share a particular propensity for getting respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and an elevated chance (compared to those of us who are somewhere in the other 90% of the Circle of Life), that acquiring a case of RSV will lead to hospitalization, a lot of antibiotics, and maybe death.    

Q: THAT’s a bad thing... What’s our first step in getting a handle on this?
A: Ask a world expert!!!

Which is actually going to be pretty easy to do as Dr. Peter Openshaw, one of the globe’s foremost experts on RSV, just happens to be our February VDC speaker.  How convenient is that?

Knock, knock
Who’s there?
R who?
Are you coming to the February VDC?

If so, please RSVP for the RSV meeting TODAY!

Hope to see you and your guests for dinner at the Club* on February 2nd,
-La Goddess

*Our usual clubhouse is FINALLY being fitted out with an AV system and is out of commission during the rehab so the Clubhouse du jour is the new School of Public Health building (Claudia Nance Rollins).  For directions (you aren’t going to believe how close this is to the VDC parking deck...) click here


March 2

Focus: History, Pathology
Attendance: 196+ (CDC staff not counted in this total)
Clubhouse du Jour: CDC (1600 Clifton Rd)

Ma Pampo, Dumplings & Callaloo:
A Look into Aging through the Lens of Influenza, Vaccines and Immune Senescence

Stefan Gravenstein, MD, MPH

Professor of Medicine,
Alpert Medical School of Brown University
Clinical Director,
Quality Partners of Rhode Island

I thought I came from long lived stock (my "Greatest Generation" grandparents all lived to be in their 90s and 100s), but my family has NOTHING on Ma Pampo.

Ms. Elizabeth “Ma Pampo” Israel of Dominica lived to be 128 before succumbing to pneumonia in 2003 (see http://www.silvertorch.com/ma-pampo.html). How did she do that? (Not the succumbing to pneumonia part, the living to be 128 part...)?

I have no idea but our March VDC speaker might. Dr. Gravenstein knows from immune senescence and vaccines AND, what’s more, he knew Ma Pampo personally!

So come to the March program and hear what this internationally celebrated researcher has to say about what influenza can tell us about illness and the biology of aging; the story of Ma Pampo; and how bad things (inflammation, microthrombosis, strokes, heart attacks, influenza) and good things (disease prevention through vaccination) can add up to bring one theory about how we age -- and about vaccine benefits that transcend what we normally measure — into focus.

Hope to see you for dinner at the Club in March!
-Your friendly neighborhood VDC Goddess


April 6

Focus: Basic Science
Attendance: 215
Clubhouse: WHSCAB (1440 Clifton Rd)

Connecting the Dots:
T Memory Stem Cells and Efficacious Vaccines

Mario Roederer, PhD

Chief, ImmunoTechnology Section
Vaccine Research Center,
National Institutes of Health

From Dr. Roederer's NIH website
"The ImmunoTechnology Section (ITS) is dedicated to understanding the roles and interactions of the individual components of the mature central immune system, with a particular eye toward the changes occurring during acute or chronic antigenic challenge. Understanding and quantifying these interactions and responses will be crucial to the evaluation of potential vaccine and immunotherapeutic strategies for treatment or prevention of HIV. In general, we are looking for immunological correlates of protection (for vaccines), and correlates of pathogenesis (in disease).

"Using 18-color flow cytometry, we can identify hundreds of phenotypically distinct subsets of lymphocytes in peripheral blood. Most of these have unique functional profiles, as determined by cytokine production, proliferative capacity, or apoptotic potential. By examining the representation of antigen-specific responses for different pathogens among these subsets, we can gain an understanding of the roles of each of these subsets in disease.

"We characterize the T cells that are induced by vaccination or natural infection both in terms of phenotype - differentiation markers - as well as function. In these experiments, we will make 4-6 distinct functional measurements on each cell (for example, production of multiple cytokines, cytotoxic activity, helper activity, proliferation), and use the remaining colors to identify the phenotypic identity of the cells. This gives us a detailed picture of the functional response as well as the differentiation stage of the antigen-specific T cells - measurements that may ultimately provide us with clinical correlates.

"Using this technology, we showed that vaccination induces a broad range of T cell function in humans (De Rosa et al., J. Immunol., 2004). Importantly, we demonstrate that such measurements are necessary to give a much more complete picture of the response to vaccines, as no single functional measurement (like gIFN production) assesses the majority of antigen-specific cells for all vaccines."


May - Combined meeting of the VDC & Mahy Seminar

Focus: Basic Science
Attendance: 288
Clubhouse: WHSCAB (1440 Clifton Rd)

2nd Annual Meeting of the "Mahy Seminar" The Mahy Seminar is an annual lecture featuring the globe's top virologists. It honors the outstanding career of Dr. Brain Mahy and acknowledges his unparallelled role in expanding the field of virology at the CDC and beyond.

Wargames: Intelligent Design of Vaccines vs Smart Evolution of Microbes

Jeffrey Almond, PhD

Member, Council of the UK Academy of Medical Sciences
Vice President, Discovery and External Research and Development
Sanofi Pasteur

**NOTE: Atypical Club meeting location

THE SCENE: Global Fight Arena
DATE: May 4, 2011
VOICEOVER: “Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to tonight’s main event. In this corner, we have a newcomer whose short record of only two outright victories (smallpox and rinderpest) belies a stunningly impressive showing in several 19th, 20th, and 21st century heavyweight matches. Please give it up for VACCINE!”

[Wild applause from the peanut gallery]

“And in this corner we have a worthy opponent with a record of several billion wins and counting. Wearing a black cape and six faces — archaea, bacteria, fungi, protista, viruses, and symbiots — everyone say hello to MICROBE!”

[Boos and hisses give way to a deafening roar as VACCINE and MICROBE meet in the center of the ring, tap fists, and begin to circle each other ...]

[Announcer’s voice:]
“Vaccine is in there early, BOOM, BOOM! He has Microbe TRAPPED in a corner using the controversial Ring Vaccine move! Wow!!

“What a robust memory cell this vaccine generates! .... We may be on the verge of witnessing a historical third victory ladies and gentlemen!”

“Wait! Microbe is making his move! Ladies and gentlemen ... Microbe just altered his protein coat!!!! AND he’s slipped through a gap in the ring and now every blow that Vaccine is trying to land is missing its target receptor!!! What is he going to do now?”

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is HUGE! Vaccine is falling back to re-group and ....wait.... who is this coming up to the arena? It’s Dr. Jeffrey Almond from Sanofi Pasteur ... This battle isn’t over yet!!


Well, I’m pretty sure that this isn’t actually how the May VDC presentation is going to go but no matter what your favorite metaphor is for the eternal battle between pathogen and petri dish -- Fight Club Title Match, the Bourne Identity, Spy vs. Spy, or Mystique (X-Men) vs. The Terminator — this is going to be one cool, Basic Science, shape shifting kind of evening.

Can we count you in?


June 16

Focus: History, Policy
Attendance: 550+
Clubhouse: WHSCAB (1440 Clifton Rd)

From the Discovery of HIV to the End of AIDS:
A Discussion of Scientific Questions Past, Present, and Future


Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, PhD

Awardee, 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
for discovering the Human Immunodeficiency Virus
Incoming President, International AIDS Society
(whose membership exceeds the VDC's by about 98,000 people)

Co-Chair, with Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
UN Panel on AIDS Prevention

Director, Unité de Régulation des Infections Rétrovirales
Pasteur Institute, Paris France


July - August

Summer Vacation 2011
The VDC Membership

Focus: Rest and Relaxation
Attendance: 2,160
Clubhouse du jour: The World

Wherever there is a vaccine to disseminate, a vaccine preventable disease outbreak to examine, or fun to be had with friends and family -- VDC members will be there in force!



September 7

Focus: History, Policy, Ethics
Attendance: 550+
Clubhouse: WHSCAB (1440 Clifton Rd)

Piltdown Man Redux?
The Scientific Fraud Behind the MMR Scare

Life in a post-Wakefield world: Part I


Fiona Godlee, MD

British Medical Journal (BMJ)

In February 1998 -- the same year that the VDC held its first meeting -- Dr. Andrew Wakefield and 12 co-authors (SH Murch, A Anthony, J Linnell, DH Casson, M Malik, M Berelowitz, AP Dhillon, MA Thomson, P Harvey, A Valentine, SE Davies, and JA Walker-Smith) published a now-infamous paper in the Lancet entitled: "Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children" (Lancet 1998; 351: 637-41).

The Summary from that article is quoted below:

Background We investigated a consecutive series of children with chronic enterocolitis and regressive developmental disorder.

Methods 12 children (mean age 6 years [range 3-10], 11 boys) were referred to a paediatric gastroenterology unit with a history of normal development followed by loss of acquired skills, including language, together with diarrhoea and abdominal pain. Children underwent gastroenterological, neurological, and developmental assessment and review of developmental records. Ileocolonoscopy and biopsy sampling, magnetic-resonance imaging (MRI), electroencephalography (EEG), and lumbar puncture were done under sedation. Barium follow-through radiography was done where possible. Biochemical, haematological, and immunological profiles were examined.

Findings Onset of behavioural symptoms was associated, by the parents, with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination in eight of the 12 children, with measles infection in one child, and otitis media in another. All 12 children had intestinal abnormalities, ranging from lymphoid nodular hyperplasia to aphthoid ulceration. Histology showed patchy chronic inflammation in the colon in 11 children and reactive ileal lymphoid hyperplasia in seven, but no granulomas. Behavioural disorders included autism (nine), disintegrative phychosis (one), and possible postviral or vaccinal encephalitis (two). There were no focal neurological abnormalities and MRI and EEG tests were normal. Abnormal laboratory results were significantly raised urinary methylmalonic acid compared with age-matched controls (p=0.003), low haemoglobin in four children, and a low serum IgA in four children.

Interpretation We identified associated gastrointestinal disease and developmental regression in a grojup of previously normal children, which was generally associated in time with possible environmental triggers.

In a recent editorial in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), BMJ 2011;342:c7452, BMJ editor in chief Fiona Godlee, MD, deputy editor Jane Smith, and associate editor Harvey Marcovitch had this to say:

"Authored by Andrew Wakefield and 12 others, the paper’s scientific limitations were clear when it appeared in 1998. As the ensuing vaccine scare took off, critics quickly pointed out that the paper was a small case series with no controls, linked three common conditions, and relied on parental recall and beliefs. Over the following decade, epidemiological studies consistently found no evidence of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. By the time the paper was finally retracted 12 years later, after forensic dissection at the General Medical Council’s (GMC) longest ever fitness to practise hearing, few people could deny that it was fatally flawed both scientifically and ethically."

When you stop to consider the human toll that that publication unleashed -- the tragic, highly preventable deaths and permanent disabilities in children of parents who believed in Dr. Wakefield's "science," not to mention the excess morbidity among vaccinated children who have been unlucky enough to be caught in an outbreak sparked by unvaccinated kids -- you just have to stop on wonder ...


Well, journalist Brian Deer of the Sunday Times of London wondered the same thing. And while some of you vacciners toiled away in your labs challenging Wakefield's science and others of you worked ceaselessly on the front lines to raise needlessly sinking vaccination rates, Mr. Deer spent seven years painstakingly researching the backstory, the sidebars, and the ripple effect of that infamous article.

A summary of his findings was published early this year as a three part series in the BMJ (British Medical Journal):

  1. Secrets of the MMR scare: How the case behind the MMR vaccine was fixed
    BMJ 2011; 342:c5347 (Published 5 January 2011)
  2. Secrets of the MMR scare: How the vaccine crisis was meant to make money
    BMJ 2011; 342:c5258 (Published 11 January 2011)
  3. Secrets of the MMR scare: The Lancet's two days to bury bad news
    BMJ 2011; 342:c7001 (Published 18 January 2011)

Want to hear more about it?

Here's your chance! Dr. Godlee will talk about scientific fraud and it's implications for all of us at our Fall Kickoff meeting of the VDC. In her own words from an email related to this program:

"I have never really seen this as the BMJ defending the MMR vaccine or vaccines in general. It is the misconduct - whatever the research topic - that is at the heart of this for me. Having said which, misconduct on an issue as globally important as a major public health intervention against fatal and infectious diseases is clearly a graver crime than misconduct with no clinical or health impact. There is a risk - which Brian Deer has been careful throughout this saga to avoid as far as possible - that one will be seen as an uncritical defender of vaccines in general and (inevitably) a friend of Big Pharma. I would like to avoid this impression at all costs as it is far from the truth."

"... I would be very happy to come and speak. Obviously the bigger and more influential and challenging the audience, the better!"

So grab your partners, your neighbors, and your shadows and be part of a big, influential, and challenging audience this September 7th.

Hope to see you and your guests for dinner at the Club!


October 5

Focus: Health Communication
Attendance: 293
Clubhouse: WHSCAB (1440 Clifton Rd)

Surfing for Misinformation:
Emerging Trends in Vaccine Opposition
Website Content

Life in a post-Wakefield world: Part II


Sandra Bean, MPH

VDC Foreign Correspondent at Oregon Statue University

Last month Dr. Godlee talked with us about the scientific misconduct on Peter Wakefield's part that provided a nucleus around which the modern anti-vaccine movement first coalesced and then crystalized.

This month Sandy Bean, a long-time VDC member, who is currently at Oregon State University pursuing her PhD, will bookend the topic by discussing how the internet has subsequently provided a venue for that movement to continue to grow and prosper by rapidly mutating their message as needed in response to changes in public fears and the success of vaccination strategies.

For example, in early September Michelle Bachmann said that HPV vaccine can cause mental retardation and, within days the "Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy" loaded a page on their site entitled "The Evidence Shows that Vaccines Cause Mental Retardation."

This is not a new phenomena though. Did YOU know that, in 2009, "governments, spooked by the prospect of radical climate change caused by over-population of the planet assembled a super-secret task force to engineer and distribute a super virulent strain of [H1N1] influenza designed to 'correct' the human population (and institute Martial Law)?"

Alternately, that "a [man-made, genetically engineered] flu virus was created — and a H1N1 virus flu pandemic was hastily declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) -- as part of a plan to boost the sale of flu drugs and vaccines, which will earn pharmaceutical companies billions of dollars?"

C'est vrai!

OK, I know what you are thinking… "Yeah, yeah, yeah -- Government conspiracies have been around as long as governments have. Why would I want to spend an hour on Wednesday evening talking about this distressing topic on an empty stomach?"

Well, as Sandy says in a recent publication in Vaccine, becoming health literate about anti-vaccination websites might help us respond more rapidly to counter the opposition arguments — AND they might cause us to consider, more seriously than we have in the past, fighting fire with fire. That is, since "… opposition claims commonly appeal to emotions whereas the supporting claims appeal to reason … can vaccines be better served by including more emotionally compelling pro-vaccine content?"
(Bean, S. [2011]. Emerging and continuing trends in vaccine opposition website content. [doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2011.01.003 ]. Vaccine, 29, 1874-1880.)

Interest peaked?

Just say "Count me in!"


November 2

Focus: General Interest
Attendance: 262
Clubhouse: WHSCAB (1440 Clifton Rd)

Closing the Net on Old Yeller's Assassin*:
The Continuum From Infection to Immunity in Rabies Prevention, Control, and Treatment

Charles Rupprecht, VMD, MS, PhD

Chief, Rabies Program, CDC
Director, WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference & Research on Rabies
VDC member in good standing

After two meetings spent contemplating vaccine nay sayers, it's time to turn our attention to a vaccine that has LEGIONS of fans. Specifically, one for Kuang Chyuan Bing ("Mad Crazy Dog Disease" to the Chinese); aka Rabies!

Not only has this vaccine saved tons of two and four-legged lives worldwide, if it had been widely available to stray yellow dogs in rural Texas in the 1950s, my nine year old self might not have had to spend one traumatic Saturday afternoon crying into my popcorn during an afternoon matinee at the Strand Theatre in Marietta!!*

*Those of us "of a certain age" may vividly remember the Disney movie "Old Yeller," a heartwarming/heartrending story about a stray yellow dog who pays a heavy price for protecting a Texas farm family from attack by a rabid wolf. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipVO3ZnrzWk for a 10 minute YouTube clip of Old Yeller's rabies scenes.


December 7

Focus: History
Attendance: 414
Clubhouse: WHSCAB (1440 Clifton Rd)

Lights! Camera! Re-Action!
Views of the Early AIDS Epidemic from
Atlanta and Hollywood

James W. Curran, MD, MPH
Harold W. Jaffe, MD, MA

Members of the 1981 CDC task force charged with investigating the first cases of the epidemic later known as HIV/AIDS
Scientists immortalized by Saul Rubinek (Curran) and
Charles Martin Smith (Jaffe) in the movie version of "And the Band Played On"

As most of you are well aware, this year is the 30th anniversary of the CDC investigation of the first cases of the syndrome later known as AIDS.

It is also the 18th anniversary of a movie — And the Band Played On — that was based on a book by the same name (Randy Shilts, author) which brought into vivid focus those harrowing first years of the epidemic.

Two of our members — James Curran and Harold Jaffe — were part of that first CDC investigation AND were portrayed in the movie. So, as you can imagine, they have extraordinary stories to tell of those mystifying, frustrating, heartbreaking, and scientifically exhilarating early years — not to mention the background scoop on how the movie got it right … and got it wrong.

Want to hear their stories?

Come to the December 7th* meeting of the VDC and bring your family and friends. This program is a must attend for everyone, regardless of whether you are old enough to still remember what a punch in the stomach the arrival of AIDS felt like or young enough to have grown up knowing lots of people with HIV … but not anyone who has actually died from it.

Hope to see you and your guests for dinner at the Club this December 7th*!

*It is extremely fitting that this program will be held on the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Even though the respective background wars -- between Allied and Axis powers in 1941 and between HIV and white blood cells in 1981 — were already being fought on other fronts, to those who lived through either of them what Pearl Harbor and the emergence of HIV have in common is that they both came as catastrophic bolts out of the blue and were life altering events that irrevocably and almost instantly divided the histories of individual people and entire countries into "Before" and "After."