Dean Close was very pleased to welcome Dr John Rhodes to deliver an insightful lecture on ‘The story of vaccination: from Edward Jenner to the Global Campaign to rid the world of polio’.

Dr Rhodes isan immunologist, who has studied the secrets of immunity and the power of vaccination at research centres in London, Cambridge, and Washington DC. His book, ‘The End of Plagues: The Global Battle against Infectious Disease’, sets out to explore the universe of germs and the mysteries of immunity, explaining in everyday language the natural ways in which our bodies defend us against infection.

The story begins withEdward Jenner andhis discovery of the smallpox vaccine, and spans three centuries in pursuit of the story of vaccination as it spreads across the globe. It is a controversial story, peppered with crises, cliff hangers and dramatic shifts of fortune, and it leads at last to the global defeat of smallpox, the imminent eradication of polio and a new war on tuberculosis, malaria and HIV-AIDS.

The fascinating talk provoked many questions amongst pupils from Year 9 to Year 13. Pupils questioned the cost of vaccination, who should cover the costs and whether Dr Rhodes thinks that the pricing is fair. Dr Rhodes explained that although vaccinations are expensive, pharmaceutical companies have a dual pricing strategy that allows access to these vital inoculations for poorer countries. The speaker was asked which vaccine he believes should be worked on now. He responded withTuberculosis. Though the BCG vaccine already exists, it is ineffective in tropical parts of the world where it still kills many people, often already weakened by HIV.

Sixth Form pupil, Rei Chin said, “It is not an easy task to explain such a complex topic to a large group of different ages and interests, but Dr Rhodes told such a thought-provoking story, everyone will take something new and interesting away from this lecture”.

The immunologist said, “It was a pleasure to speak to the pupils and staff, as individuals protected by immunisation, parents making crucial choices to protect our children and global citizens in a world which can defeat disease, we are all participants in this extraordinary story.”