I am not at all a Science-y person, but my goodness this was a great read – and not quite was I expecting! For all those put off by any mention covid-19, coronavirus, vaccines – think again!
I didn’t know such a thing could happen with a non-fiction book where it feels like reading a thriller. Despite knowing what the book is about (creating the AstraZeneca Oxford coronavirus vaccine FYI), it is fascinating to read just how 2 female scientists and their team from Oxford University managed to create a life-saving vaccine in less than a year.
Penned by scientists Professor Sarah Gilbert and Dr Catherine Green, this book summarises how they achieved it in record time – think of it as a ‘How vaccines are made for Dummies’. It’s written in a way to reduce scientific jargon, appeal to more people and keep them interested, explaining it in cake form along the way i.e. you make the batter (vaccine base), and then add ingredients (tailored bits of DNA to create the AZ vaccine).
The reason for the book is to clear up any misconceptions spread about the virus through word of mouth, through the media and online; to clear up misinformation; confirm that no, you are not being injected with a microchip; there hasn’t been enough research; it’s been rushed; etc.
These geniuses – that is what these scientists are – detail their past work on MERS, SARS and Ebola vaccines.
They know what they’re talking about.
They were proactive and noticed a SARS-like outbreak in Wuhan, China, in late 2019 and were proactive in their work to create a vaccine to combat it, so much so that trials started in February 2020.
But to avoid jumping ahead, interested is peaked and maintained from the offset which I am certain will reassure many people who still remain unsure about the vaccine and research behind it.
The unfortunate, but successful, reality behind the speed of producing such a life-saving vaccine is due to one main thing: funding. It is something Professor Gilbert and Dr Green highlight throughout Vaxxers constantly. The only reason they were able to produce it at such the rate they could is because not only were many scientists around the world trying to do the same, but they received hundreds of millions of pounds of funding from the Government to fight the pandemic.
Even though we know they managed to produce the AZ vaccine, one can only imagine how they got there, and in record time.
It is known trials can take years to complete, but we all experienced the battle of time, something we could not claim back nor speed up, purely existing instead of living for those long months since the first UK lockdown in March 2020. I
f you still have no interest in reading the book but have made it this far, they sped up because they didn’t have time to wait for trial results, instead continuing with batches of vaccines in a bid they would work and would then have the evidence to support it later on as they moved on through each stage, navigating their way through protests, anti-vaxxers and misinformation along the way, all the while doing their job and it turns out, something they truly enjoy and care about.
Disease X. Sounds freaky, right? This is the foundation for producing the vaccine: the cake batter. The Oxford team then spent weeks amending and creating the vaccine by altering their ingredients, or adjusting flavours, ingredients and measures you could say until they had enough supporting evidence to take into to trial stages: they had the ability to construct DNA for clinical trials in just 65 days.
How incredible is that?!
I re-learned a bit of Science along the way and still do not miss one bit of them lessons from school, yet Professor Gilbert and Dr Green make it sound cool!
It is incredible and inspiring to learn how much they love and care for their job and only got recognised for doing something they actually love.
Recognition of unsung heroes has definitely changed since the impact of Covid-19 and I hope it continues, with more focus on all hard workers of our nation, particularly scientists and health workers (quick fact: the NHS is the biggest employer in the UK with just over 1.8 million people in 2021, Statista 2021). This goes for everyone around the world as well: shop workers, lorry drivers, public sector, teachers, key workers and beyond.
I won’t end on a negative note, but they touch on the existence of Disease Y. Don’t worry, we’re controlling the impact of Covid-19! Disease Y just hasn’t been found yet, but we will be ready to fight it. We have the best scientists in the world and epic resources.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, consuming it over the course of the weekend and passing it on to my family.
If you are still hesitant about anything surrounding the virus and the vaccine, I implore you to research, ignore the nay-sayers and anti-vaxxers, and read this. Read this and learn from the scientists and creative brains how have helped save millions of lives around the world.
Rating – 5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Genre – non-fiction, (reads like a thriller!)