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  Special Seminar (4/20/17)  

January 11, 2017

Focus: Clinical
Attendance: 315

Trigger Warning:
Uncovering the Connection Between Vaccines and "Vaccine Encephalopathy"


David Wolf, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Division of Pediatric Neurology
Emory University School of Medicine / Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

Clubhouse Location:
Wine & Cheese: SOM Commons Area
Presentation: WHSCAB Auditorium
Moveable Feast Agenda:
6:00pm — wine, cheese, networking at SOM
6:30pm — meeting convenes at WHSCAB
7:45pm — casual buffet dinner and more networking at at SOM

Dear Vacciners,
Here are three things that can mess with your head:

  1. This event: Snow days that are actually No-Snow days.
  2. This idea: The earth rotates while also revolving around the sun which is itself revolving around the center of the Milky Way which, along with 53 other member galaxies of our "Local Group" is moving through a constantly expanding universe — which means that in the 15 seconds or so that it took you to read this sentence you moved several tens of thousands of miles beyond the point in space you were in at the start of the sentence. And because of that whole the-universe-is-constantly-expanding thing you'll never never ever ever pass through that particular point in space again. Hope you waved goodbye.
  3. This accident of nature: A spontaneously occurring (I.e. non-heritable) genetic mutation that, when triggered by a fever from, well, just about anything, can erupt into Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI), aka Dravet Syndrome.

Only one of the three head-messing events/ideas/accidents above has been understandably but falsely associated with vaccines. Can you guess which one?

No, not the No-Snow Day. No-Snow Snow Days are strongly associated with a rapid onset compulsion to clear grocery store shelves of bread and milk but they are not associated with vaccines. Neither is space travel.

The horror of Dravet's syndrome, on the other hand, has been.

Dravet's syndrome, while thankfully rare (<1 in 30,000 infants), is utterly and completely devastating to the families who have children who suffer from it. And because — we now know -- the hidden genetic potential for Dravet's can be triggered by a baby's first fever, and because some babies don't get that first fever until they are 2 months old and receive the pertussis vaccine as part of a DPT jab, and because grief stricken parents of infants who have become permanently brain damaged following a fever that followed a DPT vaccine … well, you see where this is going.

In fact, more than a decade before Andrew Wakefield's falsified research casually lobbed the groundless fear of vaccine-induced autism into every parent's worst nightmare, the fear of brain-damage and epilepsy were already causing a lot of parents to actively avoid the pertussis vaccine, no matter how many scientific findings to the contrary we threw at them.

Of course, calling Dravet's syndrome "Pertussis Vaccine Encephalopathy" (PVE), as it was for a long time, didn't exactly help.

Do you want to hear more about the history and challenges of separating the Vaccine from the so-called Vaccine Encephalopathy?

Of COURSE you do. Nothing like starting off 2017 with a little controversy, is there? Anti-vax controversy, I mean.

Register now, if you didn't already, and I'll see you on Wednesday, January 11th.
-Kimbi Hagen
Your friendly neighborhood VDC goddess*

*Over Christmas vacation this year Karl and I went to England and France. See attached photo of me waiting in line to consult with Edward Jenner at his London Hyde Park office. If you look carefully at the top of Jenner's head you will see that I am waiting for him to finish meeting with a seagull. About the H5N1 vaccine, no doubt.



February 1, 2017

Focus: History, Epi, Lab Science, Crystal Ball Gazing
Attendance: 435

Getting Ready for Next Time … Because There WILL BE a Next Time:
Progress, Setbacks, and Challenges in the Development of an Ebola Vaccine


Barbara Mahon, MD, MPH

CDC Lead
Sierra Leone Trial to Introduce a Vaccine Against Ebola (STRIVE)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Clubhouse Location:
Wine & Cheese: SOM Commons Area
Presentation: WHSCAB Auditorium
Moveable Feast Agenda:
6:00pm — wine, cheese, networking at SOM
6:30pm — meeting convenes at WHSCAB
7:45pm — casual buffet dinner and more networking at at SOM

Dear Vacciners,
In a letter that he wrote to French scientist and fellow lightning bolt enthusiast Jean-Baptiste Le Roy in 1789, Benjamin Franklin famously said: "Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death* and taxes."

Pause for thought.

It would have been totally accurate if Mr. Franklin had also added "disease outbreaks" to the list.

Back in the 14th century wave after wave of Black Death (bubonic plague) spread so widely and killed so many people that it took 300 years for Europe's population to once again reach pre-plague levels.

Not to be outdone, the North American smallpox epidemic of 1775-1782 (18th century) caused successive population crashes from Canada to New Orleans, Alaska to Mexico, and everywhere in between – including within every native American tribe on the continent – prompting the actions that led us to name our own General George Washington, Ret. as VDC President Emeritus-for-Eternity**).

In the 20th century multiple waves of a super deadly influenza pandemic raced around the planet until between one fifth and one third of everyone living at that time had become infected, leading to upwards of 50 million deaths.

And then came the 21st century and Ebola.

The West African Ebola outbreak first reported in 2014 killed five times more people than the cumulative total from all previous documented outbreaks of Ebola in history. Maybe even more since the difficulty in collecting accurate data suggests that the official death toll (11,315) underrepresents reality. Yes, even at its height, Ebola didn't have the global reach of plague, smallpox, and influenza but try using that as words of consolation to people in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

I know what you are thinking …

You are thinking: "Please tell me that Ebola won't come back. I don't want to have to worry about Ebola and Zika and HIV and Taxes all at the same time!!"

Fortunately for all of us, there is a strike team at the CDC who is doing the worrying for us and is STRIVEing to make sure that the Hot Zone is vaccine-ready for Ebola, the next time it arrives.

Because there WILL be a next time…

Hope to see you and your guests for Dinner at the Club on February 1st,
(Register now)

*According to a table found here, there were a lot of ways that Benjamin Franklin could have died in those days. These include: apoplexy, cramp in the stomach, decay, drinking cold water, infantile flux, mortification, spasms, teething, and white swelling.

** In 1777 General Washington turned the tide of the American Revolution by having his entire army (then wintering at Valley Forge) secretly variolated against smallpox, a scourge that John Adams had two years earlier bemoaned as "...ten times worse than the British, Canadian, and Indians together."

The fear of smallpox was so great during the Revolution that Gen. Washington found it almost impossible to recruit new soldiers, directly engage the (rumored to be infectious) enemy, or force his troops to enter British-held towns where smallpox epidemics were raging.

The variolation at Valley Forge had to be done in secret because soldiers were incapacitated (read: utterly defenseless) for awhile after innoculation and the British forces, had they found out, could have simply marched in and captured the entire American army in one fell swoop, with little resistance.

The gamble worked though and the rest, as they say, is history.



March 1, 2017

Focus: Testing vaccines by deliberately exposing human volunteers to disease-causing materials
Attendance: 281

Human Experimental Challenge Models in
Vaccine Development:

A Historical Perspective


Myron M. Levine, MD, DTPH

Grollman Distinguished Professor
Assoc. Dean for Global Health, Vaccinology & Infectious Diseases
University of Maryland School of Medicine

Clubhouse Location:
Wine & Cheese: SOM Commons Area
Presentation: WHSCAB Auditorium
Moveable Feast Agenda:
6:00pm — wine, cheese, networking at SOM
6:30pm — meeting convenes at WHSCAB
7:45pm — casual buffet dinner and more networking at at SOM

Dear Vacciners,
As those of you who have been unlucky enough to find yourself standing in the vicinity when it happens well know, we signal the transition between the wine/cheese part of each VDC evening and the presentation/discussion part of the evening by vigorously ringing a cow bell.

This is in honor of Edward Jenner's implementation of a vaccine that used cowpox (the name 'vaccine' came from "vacca," the Latin word for cow) to prevent smallpox, thereby initiating a chain of events that ultimately led to the eradication of smallpox in humans*

Jenner got all the credit** but the real hero of the smallpox story is James Phipps, an 8 year old neighbor boy who was drafted into being Jenner's guinea pig. Here is a summary version of the experimental protocol: Make two cuts on James' arm, stuff them with fresh cowpox goop taken from a milkmaid Sarah Nelme's hand, wait a week until James gets well from the cowpox, then MORE THAN TWENTY TIMES over the next several months "Several slight punctures and incisions were made on both his arms, and the [smallpox] matter was carefully inserted, but no disease followed." Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

Parish records state that in 1823 James Phipps attended Jenner's funeral. Probably just to make sure that he was actually dead.

On the other hand, maybe he actually attended the funeral to say thank you … alert VDC member-in-good-standing Rachel Marine turned up evidence that, after James grew up, Jenner gave him a house.

Fast forward to the 20th century and human challenge models have entered the mainstream. Sometimes for worse (Nazi Germany) but a lot of times for better (influenza, cholera, eColi, rotavirus, malaria).

As our presenter, Mike Levine et al, said in a Dec. 2012 article in the Lancet -- "Human microbial challenge: the ultimate animal model":

"Natural exposure to infections occurs throughout life, but the infection of human volunteers could be viewed as a dark art, antihippocratic, unnatural, risky, and even unethical. Studies of carefully monitored and controlled human infection, however, can provide unique insights into pathogenesis and be used to advance the development of antimicrobial drugs and vaccines."

Want to hear more about what it is like to purposefully make people sick in the pursuit of better, safer vaccines from a 1998 Albert B. Sabin Institute Gold Medal Award winner who has been spectacularly successful in using that approach?

Of course you do.


Hope to see you for dinner at the Club on Wednesday, March 1st.

* I was going to say "from the world" but there are still smallpox samples being kept legally at the CDC and in Russia and the occasional odd cardboard box full of vials of smallpox is still turning up in dusty cupboards from time to time.

**Ironically, (for poor James), Jenner was not actually the first person to deliberately try vaccination against smallpox through inoculation with cowpox. He was just the first person to do it and then publish the findings in the academic literature. Jenner and James Phipps did their pas de deux with destiny in 1796, but records and diaries here and there indicate that between 1769 and 1791 at least seven other people from England, Denmark, and Germany had already successfully tried cowpox inoculation on nearby children and/or family members.

Publish or perish, y'all.



April 5, 2017

Focus: How People Conceptualize Vaccines
Attendance: 201

Zombies, Vampires, and Werewolves, Oh My!:
Vaccine Concerns Expressed in Fiction and Film


Bernice L. Hausman, PhD

Director, Vaccine Research Group
Chair, Department of English
Professor, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine
Virginia Tech

Clubhouse Location:
Wine & Cheese: SOM Commons Area
Presentation: WHSCAB Auditorium
Moveable Feast Agenda:
6:00pm — wine, cheese, networking at SOM
6:30pm — meeting convenes at WHSCAB
7:45pm — casual buffet dinner and more networking at at SOM

Dear Vacciners,
I have received so many questions about whether this month's meeting will include a panel of zombies, vampires, and werewolves (to discuss the relevant issues from a first-being perspective) that I have decided to include my response in a general message.

I haven't yet discussed this with Dr. Hausman but while a couple of werewolves may be theoretically available -- the April 4 program falls three weeks after the Worm Moon (March 12) and a week before the Pink Moon (April 11)* -- the recent shift to daylight savings time means that vampires will find travel to the meeting too hazardous to risk and every one of our VDC zombie members have already contacted me to express regrets about being unable to make this month's meeting as they are currently tied up shooting season 8 of the Walking Dead.

*Full list of 2017 Full Moons



Special Seminar: April 20, 2017

Focus: Policy
Attendance: 201

Oral Cholera Vaccine …
Has the Time for Widespread Use Finally Come?
YOU be the Judge!


Jan Holmgren, PhD

Director, Göteborgs Universitet Vaccine Research Institute (GUVAX)
University of Gothenburg, Sweden

2017 Sabin Gold Medal Award winner-to-be
Sabin Vaccine Institute

NOTE: In honor of April the giraffe having finally popped, we will serve vegetarian, animal-shaped cookies -- i.e. Animal Crackers – before the meeting.

Small bags of celebratory Animal Crackers will be available by the fountain between SOM and WHSCAB beginning at 6:00. In keeping with WSHCAB policy, no consuming of food inside the Auditorium please.

Dear Vacciners,
Q: What is the most prestigious scientific prize in the field of vaccinology?
A: The Sabin Gold Medal Award (named after Alfred Sabin, awesome polio eradicator guy)

Q: What is the coolest scientific group in the field of vaccinology?
A: The Vaccine Dinner Club (awesome hot food and cool science crowd)

Q: What do you get when you combine the Sabin Gold Medal Award and the Vaccine Dinner Club?
A: One totally kick ass, super duper special evening starring this year's upcoming recipient of the Sabin Gold Medal, introduced by two year's ago recipient of the Sabin Gold Medal (VDC charter member Roger Glass).

Here is a list of things for you to like and not like about cholera.


Not like:

Fortunately cholera vaccine science attracts some of the keenest minds around. Such as the above mentioned Mike Levine and Dr. Jan Holmgren, our Thursday, April 20 speaker.

As previously advertised, Dr. Holmgren, will be stopping in Atlanta on his way to DC to accept the 2017 Sabin Gold Medal. That means that, if you come to the meeting, you will be able to hear his gold medal talk before anyone else in the world!!!



May 3, 2017 - Combined meeting of the VDC & Mahy Seminar

Focus: Epi, Strategy
Attendance: 356

8th 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.

End Game:
Planning for the Joy of Victory While Coping with the Agony of Defeat in Eradicating Polio


Hamid Jafari, MD

Former Director
Global Polio Eradication
World Health Organization

Clubhouse Location:
Wine & Cheese: SOM Commons Area
Presentation: WHSCAB Auditorium
Moveable Feast Agenda:
6:00pm — wine, cheese, networking at SOM
6:30pm — meeting convenes at WHSCAB
7:45pm — casual buffet dinner and more networking at at SOM

Dear Vacciners,
Here is a sign from this past weekend's March for Science:

Great sign!

Unfortunately there are a whole lot of people in the world who DO remember polio because they are currently living with its threat and its reality every day.

But we are SO CLOSE to the finish line!!
As of April 19, 2017 a grand total of FIVE new cases of polio have been reported in the whole world for 2017. (3 in Afghanistan and 2 in Pakistan).

At this point polio and guinea worm are pretty much running neck and neck for the highly coveted prize of 2nd Eradicated Human Disease.

Can we do it? Can we get polio across the finish line and into the history books before guinea worm?

What is it going to take to make that last, great leap?

Come to the May meeting of the Vaccine Dinner Club and find out because:

  1. Jane has received permission to host both the Reception and Dinner in WHSCAB plaza (yay!)
  2. We are celebrating the 2017 Mahy seminar in the absence of Brian and Penny Mahy (boo!) by sending Brian a recording of ourselves singing Happy Birthday to him (yay!)
  3. We are discussing the tragedies and triumphs that have alternately traumatized (boo!) and buoyed (yay!) global polio eradication staff
  4. We are bidding adieu to the 2016-2017 season of the VDC (boo!)
  5. I will show off the latest in stylish head coverings (yay!) that are helping to dress for success my own personal cancer eradication effort (keep up with my brief blogs about this journey at https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/kimbihagen).

Register NOW for the May meeting.

Hope to see you for dinner at the Club on May 3rd,
-Kimbi Hagen
VDC Director/Goddess



June - August, 2017

Summer Vacation
The VDC Membership

Focus: Rest and Relaxation
Attendance: 2,976
Clubhouse du jour: The World

Wherever there is a vaccine to develop, describe, or 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 6, 2017

Focus: Movie about the Greatest vaccine scientist in History
Attendance: 503

A Perilous Quest to Save the World's Children


Best Documentary: Scinema 2016

Dear Vacciners,
On September 6th ...

As you can clearly see, September 6th is an absolutely sterling date in history. So let's get together and celebrate the 2017 version of it with ... Dinner and a Movie!

Specifically, with an award-winning hour long documentary that is a super engaging history lesson about Maurice Hilleman, a person who – through the 40+ vaccines he invented -- has saved, and is still saving, more lives than any other single individual in history.

From the back of the movie box:
"There's a Science to Saving 8 Million Lives a Year…. From his poverty-stricken youth on the plains of Montana, Maurice Hilleman emerged to prevent pandemic flu, invent the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, and develop the first-ever vaccine against human cancer. Responsible for more than half of the vaccines that children receive today, Hilleman's legacy has enabled us to live 30 years longer than we used to."

As NIH/NIAID Director Tony Fauci has said: "It would have been tough on mankind if we didn't have Maurice Hilleman."

You think?

Hope to see you and your guests for dinner and a movie at the Club on Wednesday, September 6th,
-Kimbi Hagen
VDC Director/Goddess



October 24, 2017
(Combined October/November meeting)

Focus: Science, Policy, Practice, Need
Attendance: 397

Hot Off the Press:
What's New in Plotkin's Vaccines
7th edition

Starring the Editors:

Walter A. Orenstein
Paul A. Offit
Kathryn M. Edwards

Dear Vacciners,
If calendars had patron saints, those saints would almost certainly be Loki, Kokopelli, Br'er Rabbit, and Coyote because calendars absolutely REJOICE in playing tricks on people.

Consider these examples:

By decree of Julius Caesar, the year 46 BC was 445 days long. Seriously. Not surprisingly, 46 BC has gone down in history as "the year of confusion." I imagine that each time that year a Roman citizen innocently asked someone what the date was the answer was something along the lines of "I HAVE NO IDEA, STOP ASKING ME THAT!!"

Then, during the 18th century, the Gregorian calendar threw in a few zingers while shoving the old fashioned Julian calendar out of the door. Specifically,

Don't you think that there must have been at least ONE set of twins who were born during the 1752 date straddle? I.e. one twin was born close to midnight on September 2nd and the other, arriving only 15 minutes later, went through life with a September 14th birthday? If this didn't happen, it should have.

For the next few hundred years the calendar mostly behaved itself.

Until now.

You know as well as I do that the VDC is held on the first Wednesday of the month but this year, for the first time in history, the first Wednesday in October AND the first Wednesday in November are both falling on the 4th TUESDAY in OCTOBER (10/24).

It's a miracle!

Or the work of Loki, Kokopelli, Br'er Rabbit, and Coyote.

Of course it is also possible that there could be other reasons* for scheduling a combined October/November meeting which is occurring in the middle of the month on a Tuesday instead of on a first Wednesday, but I'm pretty sure it's mostly just the calendar acting up.

Just like the chronological version of tectonic plates, every so often temporal strain has to be relieved and a calendarquake happens. This is just one of those times. Try to roll with it.

During the October 24 meeting we will hear a presentation from the editors of the 7th edition of "Plotkin's Vaccines," aka the resource which provides definitive GPS services for anyone needing to navigate their way through a complex 21st century vaccine landscape.

In other words, our presenters will be the "They" you are talking about whenever you say to someone: "You know, they say [insert accurate vaccine statement here]...."

Cool beans, eh?

Hope to see you and your guests for dinner at the Club on Tuesday, October 24th,
-Kimbi Hagen
VDC Director/Goddess

*These are some other theoretically possible reasons for the reschedule:

Hope to see you and your guests for dinner and a movie at the Club on Tuesday, October 24th,
-Kimbi Hagen
VDC Director/Goddess



December 6, 2017

Focus: Basic Science
Attendance: 267

Think Globally, Act Locally:
The Emory Experience in
Developing HIV Vaccines


Rama Amara, PhD

Emory University

Dear Vacciners,
If you read the New York Times article about the Thanksgiving recipes googled in every state, you already know that, just before Thanksgiving last week, people in Georgia were 10x more likely to google recipes for "Key Lime Cake" than people anywhere else in the country.

You'd also know that people in other parts of the country eat some VERY odd (to a Georgian at least) things for Thanksgiving:

Whether or not your Thanksgiving table featured strawberry pretzel salad (Alabama), bacon wrapped dates (Colorado), spanakopita (Connecticut), turducken (Delaware), flan de calabaza (Florida), jook (Hawaii), pumpkin whoopee pie (Maine), twinkie cake (Michigan), deer jerky (Missouri), coquito (New York), cherry yum yum (North Carolina), spinach maria (Tennessee), or tofurkey (one was officially pardoned this year by the mayor of Seattle), you know that local preferences and customs differ from region to region.

And that, in many cases, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

But not always.

Ever since the retrovirus behind AIDS was first identified, Emory University has been at the forefront in envisioning, developing, and testing experimental vaccines for HIV that will be used around the world. And we REALLY like talking about it.

So how is the effort going? What does the future of AIDS vaccines look like?

Register now and come to the December meeting of the VDC and hear from one of the giants in the global field of HIV vaccine development – our very own VDC member-in-good-standing, Rama Amara.

Hope to see you for dinner at the Club on December 6,