January April July October
February May August November
March June September December

January 8, 2020

Focus: Public Health
Attendance: 353

Hit Me With Your Best Shot:
Engineering New Mechanisms of Vaccine Immunity with the Oldest Adjuvant


Darrell J Irvine, PhD

Professor of Materials Science & Engineering and Biological Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dear Vacciners,
Here are some things that have happened on January 8, throughout history (see OnThisDay.com for more info):

*What is a vaccine adjuvant?
Vaccine adjuvants are tools that helps vaccines deliver a punchier punch to your immune system. For example, picture the difference between being hit by a snowball lobbed at you by a 5 year old and being hit by that same snow ball fired from a sling shot that some "helpful" person handed the 5 year old…. Both will get the job done but the adjuvant (sling shot)-enabled snowball is likely to generate a much bigger reaction.

Official motto of vaccine adjuvants everywhere: "We Deliver."

Anything else cool about adjuvants?
Some of them are human-produced, and nano sized. Just like the "four men and a beautiful girl*" in the movie the Fantastic Voyage!! [Check out the film's seriously cool trailer here (don't stop until you at least get to the 6:59 mark when antibodies attack!]. AND some of adjuvants are made out of aluminum, just like Teslas.

Join us at the first VDC of 2020 and learn more about how the very first adjuvant is getting a 21st century revamp.

Hope to see you for dinner at the Club on January 8,



February 5, 2020

Focus: Immunology
Attendance: 379

Let's Talk About SeXX:
Male/Female Differences in Vaccine-induced Immunity and Protection


Sabra L. Klein, PhD

Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Dear Vacciners,
Which of these statements is TRUE?

Women may reject transplanted organs more rapidly than Men do
Men are less likely to recover language ability after a stroke then Women are
Women are more likely to get multiple sclerosis and Men are more likely to get leukemia
Both innate and adaptive immunity are modified by sex
Back in the olden days "everyone" knew that Blue is for baby girls and Pink is for baby boys because … well, duh! Blue is the color of Mother Nature's sky and pink is the juvenile version of red, that most masculine of colors
All of the Above
None of the Above


If you picked "F: All of the Above"….


Back in the early 1800s, the essential differences between testosterone- and estrogen-based life forms was first summed up in the literature as:
• Boys: Snips, Snails, Puppy Dog Tails*
• Girls: Sugar, Spice, Everything Nice*

*Of course the early 1800s was ALSO a time that people thought tobacco smoke enemas could revive drowning victims (by driving the water from their lungs) and that travelling across the face of the planet at speeds approaching 30mph on one of the newly invented steam locomotives could drive you mad, so allowances must be made.

Since then our understanding of human biology has evolved quite a bit so what is the current thinking on the essential differences between XY and XX?? Do vaccines have different efficacy and side effects in Men and Women?**

Inquiring minds want to know!

I hope to see you for Dinner at the Club on February 5th when we talk all about SeXX.…

See you there,

**Spoiler alert: Yes.



March 4, 2020

Focus: Public Health, Epidemiology, History, Crystal Ball
Attendance: 796

What We Know
What We Suspect
What We Fear


Jay C. Butler, MD

Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


James V. Lavery, PhD

Conrad N. Hilton Chair in Global Health Ethics
Professor, Hubert Department of Global Health
Rollins School of Public Health

Clubhouse Location:
WHSCAB Plaza & Auditorium
6:00pm — wine, cheese, networking
6:30pm — meeting convenes
7:45pm — casual buffet dinner, more networking

Dear Vacciners,
Here's one way of looking at coronavirus ...

  # Cases # Deaths
Influenza (2019-2020 est) 15,000,000 – 21,000,000 8,200 – 20,000
Tuberculosis (2018) 10,000,000 1,200,000
Measles, worldwide (2018) 9,869,400 142,300
Coronavirus (2020)* 84,077 2,876
Ebola (2014-2016) 28,616 11,300
SARS (2003) 8,098 774

*Figures are reported through noon on 2/28/2020

Here's another way of looking at it…

• "Photos show Italy on lockdown because of a spike in coronavirus cases"
(Business Insider)

• "The Coronavirus is More Than a Disease. It's a Test"
(The New York Times)

• "Coronavirus: Iran's deputy health minister tests positive as outbreak worsens"

• "CDC expects 'community spread' of coronavirus, as top official warns disruptions could be 'severe'"

Coronavirus: What do we know? What do we suspect? What do we fear? Come to the March meeting of the VDC and find out!

Hope to see you for dinner at the Club on March 4.



April 1, 2020



And, yes, the fact that the program was scheduled for April Fools day is not lost on us. If only this was a prank!



May 6, 2020


11th 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.




June - August, 2020

Summer Vacation
The VDC Membership

Focus: Shelter in Place
Attendance: 3,368
Clubhouse du jour: Our Individual Houses

Vacciners and their families will spend this summer wearing masks, washing hands, and practicing social distancing as we all try to get a handle on the largest public health crisis of the past 105 years.




September 9, 2020
Virtual VDC

Focus: vaccine development and testing
Attendance: 1,215

SARS-CoV-2 Vaccines Part I:
Vaccine Development and Testing
Progress Report


Rama Amara, PhD

Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology,
Emory University School of Medicine
Researcher, Yerkes National Primate Research Center

Evan Anderson, MD

Associate Professor, Pediatrics & Medicine
Emory School of Medicine
PI, NIAID/Moderna mRNA SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Trial

Nadine Rouphael, MD

Associate Professor, Medicine/Infectious Disease
Emory School of Medicine
Emory VTEU contact PI, NIAID/Moderna mRNA SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Trial

Clubhouse Location:
The Zoomisphere
5:30pm — meeting convenes
6:45pm — adjourn

Dear Vacciners,

As a reminder, here is a copy of a table included in the last (2/25/20) message sent to the VDC listserv, prior to our final (March, 2020) meeting of the VDC's truncated 2019-2020 season.

NOTE: COVID-19 figures came from https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/.

February 2020 COVID table

Six months later, here is that same table, with COVID-19 figures (from the same source) updated through yesterday:

August 2020 COVID table

What a difference six months makes!

2020 has been a truly horrific year all around in ways both large (Know Their Names) and small (I'm looking at you murder hornets), and it isn't over yet.

But even though it feels like every day has brought a new opportunity for some fresh disaster to occur, 2020 HAS provided some bright and sparkly moments too.

And still to come is the opening of the "Virtual VDC" on September 9. (Yay!)

Here is your Virtual VDC 2020 preflight check-list:

  1. Forward this message to colleagues / ESI officers / post-docs / students / friends / anyone else on the planet you think might be interested in attending meetings of the Virtual VDC this year.
  2. Take an end-of-summer / early Fall walk in the woods. Extra points if you spot the poison ivy before it spots you. But first read Colin Nissan's (really funny. also short.) "Tick Check" article from the New Yorker because checking yourself for ticks after going outside may be the only way to see what your body looks like covered in ticks.
  3. Add an entry or two to the Google Doc list of Good Things That Happened in 2020.
    #FightTheDarkness; #Because2020
  4. Register NOW for the 2020-2021 Virtual VDC season opener.

Dear People Who Had This Message Forwarded to Them,


The Vaccine Dinner Club:

  1. Is a 3,500+ member organization now in its 22nd year that exists to facilitate networking, dialogue, and collaboration between researchers, clinicians, policy makers, historian/journalists, and science-savvy members of the general public who are interested in vaccine need, history, policy, discovery, development, testing, deployment, use, and/or evaluation. Also in diseases that we WISH were vaccine preventable.
  2. Normally meets in person on the Emory campus for wine and cheese, a truly excellent science talk, and a casual buffet dinner but will -- for the 2020-2021 season -- meet online via Zoom (meetings will NOT be recorded).
  3. Has two missions: 1) To advance the practice of vaccine science and 2) to have a really good time at our monthly meetings.
  4. Is THE place for inquiring minds to [virtually] be on the first Wednesday evening (usually) of every month during the academic year
  5. All of the above

If you picked "e: All of the above" -- Congratulations, We have a winner!
Read more about the VDC
and consider joining us on September 9.

- Kimbi Hagen, EdD
VDC Director/Goddess



October 7, 2020
Virtual VDC

Focus: vaccine delivery
Attendance: 1,568

SARS-CoV-2 Vaccines Part II:
Distribution Challenges


William Foege, MD, MPH

Past Director (retired)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Gates Fellow
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Emeritus Presidential Distinguished Professor of International Health
Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University


Capt. Janell Routh MD MHS

Co-Deputy, Implementation Planning Unit
SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Task Force
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

AFM and Domestic Polio Team Lead
Division of Viral Diseases / NCIRD
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Clubhouse Location:
The Zoomisphere
Agenda: (all times Eastern time zone)
5:20pm — Grab a beer or a glass of wine from the fridge and get online
5:30pm — Meeting called to order in the usual way (ear muffs optional)
5:40pm — This is the part where some really excellent science is presented
6:30pm — Q & A
6:45pm — Adjourn, already dreaming of next month's program

*BYOF=Bring Your Own Food. This is the year in which YOU will put the Dinner in the Vaccine Dinner Club because it turns out to be logistically complicated and cost-prohibitive for us to have dinner individually delivered to everyone's house. Which is not to say that you can't make an occasion out of the evening and arrange to have GrubHub or DoorDash deliver ….

Dear Vacciners,
Think ahead for a minute to a halcyon future in which one or more pharma companies have reached the finish line in developing their SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Their Phase III human trials are complete, their data have been parsed, their regulatory approvals have been secured, and enough glass vials and syringe needles to fill Shea Stadium (to REBUILD Shea Stadium) are in the process of being churned out.

So NOW what? Given that there is no way in the world that there will be enough vaccine to go around right at first:

  • Who decides what countries should get the first shipments of vaccine?
  • How is it decided what people in recipient countries should be on the short list for first dibs at a dose?
  • What is it going to take to purchase, distribute, and deliver vast amounts of the vaccine to every remote spot on the planet it is needed? and
  • What is it going to take to keep all those individual doses viable until they are needed?*

Inquiring minds want to know!

Are you an enquiring mind? I hope so because the October 7th VDC will feature two speakers who are uniquely prepared to address questions like these.

First at bat will be Dr. William (Bill) Foege, the public health legend who spent the 1970's devising the global strategy that led to the successful eradication of smallpox, spent June 2020 writing about how badly politicians have bungled the COVID-19 pandemic [see essay #5], and has spent all the minutes since then working on a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine distribution report for the National Academy of Medicine -- that is being un-embargoed by congress JUST in time for him to be allowed to discuss it for the first time (with us!) at this month's VDC.

Up next will be Capt. Janell Routh, the public health rock star who is co-leading the CDC's efforts to get the vaccine(s), when and if one or more are licensed for distribution, from vat to van to a vaccination team near you.

Sound too cool for school? Hell yeah! So Register Now and we'll see you at the Club on October 7th.

-Kimbi Hagen, EdD
Your friendly neighborhood VDC Director/Goddess

*I have to admit that it is the last question – about how we will keep the vaccines viable on their trip to remote corners of the globe -- that has been waking ME up at night lately (because every now and then I like to take a break from worrying about things that are happening to worry about things that haven't yet happened).

Those of you who are VDC old timers may remember when Dr. Stan Foster gave a September 2013 VDC talk titled "Hindsight is 20/20: Lessons Learned and Visions for the Future: 50 Years of Immunization." In it he described the time young CDC EIS (Epidemic Intelligence Service) officer Larry Altman (who grew up to become a science writer for the New York Times) was sent to Mali to address failures in their measles program.

Upon his arrival in Mali, Dr. Altman promptly identified one obvious problem – to be effective, measles vaccines have to be kept cold every step of the way from the moment they are manufactured until the moment they end up in someone's arm and, in Mali, the "cold chain" was broken.

So there ensued a back and forth trail of cables (this being in the dark ages before email) between Dr. Altman and staff in Washington DC:

"Jeeps don't keep the vaccines cold. Send trucks."
"No trucks available. Park under trees."
"Send trees."

"But that was decades and decades ago!" you are no doubt thinking. "Surely things are better managed by now!" Nope. Globally, keeping a cold chain intact is still a complex and costly process that can account for upwards of 80% of the price of vaccinations. Not to mention that it fails often enough to lead to the loss of nearly half of all vaccine doses globally. And that is NOT taking into account the specialized needs of front runner Pfizer's proposed SARS-CoV-2 vaccine that, according to this ABC news article, will need to be stored at 94 DEGREES BELOW ZERO every step of the wayfrom manufacturer to Mali.

That's gonna take some very specialized trees….



Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Virtual VLC*

*VLC=Vaccine Lunch Club: This month's program will open at 12:20pm, in order to accomodate the 5-hour time zone difference between Atlanta and our London-based presenter.

Focus: Vaccine uptake
Attendance: 764

SARS-CoV-2 Vaccines Part III:
Uptake Issues
(If We Build It, Will They Come?)


Heidi Larson, PhD

Director, The Vaccine Confidence Project
Professor, Anthropology, Risk, and Decision Science
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Author, "Stuck: How Vaccine Rumors Start and Why They Don't Go Away"
About Dr. Larson
More About Dr. Larson
What is the Vaccine Confidence Project reporting about C19?

Clubhouse Location:
A Zoom screen near you
Agenda: (all times Eastern time zone)
12:20pm — Grab some lunch from the fridge and get online
12:30pm — Meeting called to order in the usual way (ear muffs optional)
12:40pm — This is the part where some really excellent science is presented
1:30pm — Q & A
1:45pm — Adjourn, already dreaming of next month's program

This is the year in which YOU will put the Dinner in the Vaccine Dinner Club because it turns out to be logistically complicated and cost-prohibitive for us to have food individually delivered to everyone's house. Which is not to say that you can't make an occasion out of the event and arrange to have GrubHub or DoorDash deliver ….

Dear Vacciners,
This month's speaker, Dr. Heidi Larson, very well may be the world's pre-eminent expert on vaccine hesitancy (Check out the links above) so this is a DON'T MISS opportunity to interact with her.

Context ... As soon as a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 is ready for use there is no doubt that social media and the rumor mill will be instantly pressed into service to help people decide how they should feel about it. How do I know this? Well, besides "Duh!," the truth is that using words or images to communicate information -- and mis-information -- about vaccines is a practice as old as vaccines themselves.

My own personal favorite vaccine mis-information image comes from the 17th century and depicts Edward Jenner vaccinating a room full of people, each of whom promptly starts sprouting actual cows all over their body.

But this one from the early 1900s is pretty good too – it depicts a "Vaccine Upas Tree" growing in a cemetery bearing the poisoned "fruits of vaccination" and warning that "the root that poisons the young life blood of the nation; it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder."

BTW: using an upas tree as a vaccine icon was a particularly clever touch because, at that time, it was widely believed that upas trees were capable of exuding an invisible, poisonous miasma that killed anyone breathing it in. And while gifting upas trees with a semi-sentient 'fog of death' turns out to be giving them too much credit, they are still a pretty lethal bit of herbage. As the crossword addicted among us know, the seeds of upas trees are used to make strychnine and poison darts are tipped with its sap.

The pro- public health types liked to use imagery too. In one example (that feels EXTREMELY timely right now as we hurtle towards a predicted winter convergence of C19 and influenza), postcards were disseminated in the mid 1900s showing little girls using a skipping rhyme to remember how important it is to get a flu shot.

Not to be outdone, the National Child Welfare Association of New York published a poster depicting a young David slaying the Goliath of Tuberculosis simply by standing up straight.

So we've been using words and images as a public health battleground for quite a while.

Historically, it hasn't always gone well.

Just ask the famous Puritan theologian Cotton Mather. In 1721 -- 30 years after he almost singlehandedly sparked the Salem Witch Trials and 75 years before Dr. Jenner threatened to make cows sprout from people's foreheads -- Rev. Mather passionately urged the people of Boston to be variolated* in an effort to halt a smallpox epidemic that was raging through the city.

Given the lethality of smallpox, you'd think that this would be a pretty popular suggestion. Not at all! Only a few hours after his stirring call to action someone tossed a homemade grenade into Rev. Mather's house, setting it on fire. The note attached to the proto-molotov cocktail said:
    "COTTON MATHER, You Dog, Dam You. I'll inoculate you with this, with a POX to you."

I bet Dr. Larson sometimes feels like things haven't improved a whole lot since then.

In an era in which VacTruth.com responds to current concerns by 'helpfully' re-posting a webpage from 2013 that trumpets: 8 Damn Good Reasons Not to Get the Flu Shot and the Nigerian polio vaccine push could be brought to a standstill by rumors, not adverse events or even misinformation -- just rumors, you have to wonder if we -- the pro-vaccine side -- are being out-gunned in our anti hesitancy messaging.

I mean, their side uses fire bombs and pictures of poison trees and women giving birth to cows to get their message across, while we depend on children skipping rope and wielding slingshots plus the occasional shout of ironic laughter at the fix we are in.

How do we get better at this in time for a C19 vaccine?

Well, we could try inventing an application that automatically inserts pro-vaccine messages into the middle of random Tweets -- for example, here is a recent (10/30/20) Tweet from @realDonaldTrump that has been filtered through my proposed "PosVac" app …. "More Testing equals more Cases. We have best testing. Deaths WAY DOWN. #vaccinesforall. Get vaccinated for the flu NOW!"

Or how about a PosVac-filtered version of the famous Tweet @SeanHannity posted back in 2018 after he returned to Twitter following the second disruption of his account: "I'm baaaccckk from getting vaccinated against Shingles!"

An intriguing idea to be sure.

Barring the overnight invention of an intrusive, probably illegal app however, why don't we agree instead to start thinking about what the C19 vaccine hesitancy issues will be by registering to attend the TUESDAY, November 10 meeting of the Vaccine Dinner LUNCH Club when Dr. Larson will try to lead us out of the wilderness.

Be there or be misinformed.
your friendly neighborhood Vaccine Dinner Club goddess

* Variolation, which was introduced from Africa to North America by Cotton Mather's slave Onesimus, refers to the pre-vaccine practice of conferring lifelong immunity to severe smallpox by intentionally infecting someone with a mild case. This was done by taking dried smallpox scabs and blowing them up a person's nose (presumably using a straw) or burying them just below the skin of a person's hand or arm, via a cut made specifically for that purpose.



December 2, 2020
Virtual VDC

Focus: Ending the Epidemic
Attendance: 432

In the Absence of a Vaccine:
Is the Universal Test & Treat Strategy
to Prevent HIV (UTT)
Slowing Down the [AIDS] Pandemic?


Diane Havlir, MD

Professor (Medicine)
University of California, San Francisco

Carlos del Rio, MD, MPH

PI and Co-Director
Emory Center for AIDS Research

Emory-CDC HIV Clinical Trials Unit and
Emory Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit

Wendy Armstrong, MD

Executive Medical Director
Grady Infectious Disease Program (IDP)

Professor (Medicine)
Division of Infectious Disease
Emory University School of Medicine

Clubhouse Location:
A Zoom screen near you
Agenda: (all times Eastern time zone)
5:20pm — Grab a beer or a glass of wine from the fridge and get online
5:30pm — Meeting called to order in the usual way (ear muffs optional)
5:40pm — This is the part where some really excellent science is presented
6:30pm — Q & A
6:45pm — Adjourn, already dreaming of next month's program

*BYOF=Bring Your Own Food. This is the year in which YOU will put the Dinner in the Vaccine Dinner Club because it turns out to be logistically complicated and cost-prohibitive for us to have dinner individually delivered to everyone's house. Which is not to say that you can't make an occasion out of the evening and arrange to have GrubHub or DoorDash deliver ….