The Covid-19 vaccine rollout started in Australia yesterday and I can’t wait to line up again for my jab. Given Canberra has been relatively Covid-free – and Australia itself has so far succeeded in keeping the pandemic under reasonable control – it may be months, certainly many weeks, before my turn comes around for the vaccine. Will it be Pfizer-BioNTech? University of Oxford-AstraZeneca? Novavax? COVAX Facility? Who knows? I won’t care as long as I get one.
While thinking back on the mid-50s polio epidemic, I came cross the image at the top of this post of Pierre Raphaël Lépine, a French physician and biologist who was one of the leaders in the quest to come up with a successful and safe vaccine. Lépine was born into a family of doctors in Lyon on August 13, 1901. His father, Jean Camille Raphaël Lépine (1876-1967), was a lecturer in clinical psychiatry at the medical school of Lyon.
In 1930 he was in London studying multiple sclerosis and from 1931-1935 was director of the Athens Pasteur Institute and professor in bacteriology at the Athens School of Hygiene and began his first clinical trials of a vaccine for poliomyelitis in monkeys, using inactivated virus. In 1938 Lépine co-founded the French Society of Microbiology. From 1941 the Institut Pasteur merged laboratories dealing with viruses and in 1946 Lépine was in charge of collecting witnesses concerning medical experiments on human beings in Nazi concentration camps for the Nuremberg war crimes trials.