Origin Stories: Vaccines

Smallpox deformed, killed, and spawned the modern vaccine.

The official way to get a vaccine appointment in France is via a website. After trying for a slot many times, I decided to write a bot to do the checking. Every 60-80 seconds, it’d programmatically check appointment availability. To clarify, there’s no cheating involved; it wouldn’t make an appointment if it found a slot. Rather, it would only check and record if there were any slots available and how many empty slots my local vaccination center had.

I thought it’d run about ten days so told it to check 14400 times, 60 minutes x 24 hours x ten days. So, after ten days, 14,400 checks … nothing. Not a single available slot through the website. Lucky for me, during that time my doctor managed to make me an appointment. But not so good for somebody without a diligent doctor.

The whole experience made me think about vaccines so I decided to create an Origin Stories episode about the history of vaccines. Check it out, here:

One regret I have about this piece is it skims over a lot due to our decision to keep these videos at ten minutes or less. There is another entirely believable version about a different doctor who observed the relation between cowpox and smallpox. More important are the many women scientists who either created vaccines or the science that led to them but weren’t involved in the first vaccine. We do review Tzarina Katherine the Great, the first ruler to create a national immunization campaign, but end up skipping quite a few other notable women. Specifically, Dr. Katalin Karikó especially deserves a mention or an entire segment. Maybe we’ll make a short follow-on video specifically for the women who brought us immunity.