International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021: Female Role Models from the Vaccine World

February 11, 2021
5:00 min read
Olga Torres
International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021: Female Role Models from the Vaccine World
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February 11 – On this International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021, the Covalent Bonds (women-led) team highlights the kick-ass female scientists and advocates who paved the way for a world of vaccinations. Today, we spotlight a few of the women instrumental in bringing inoculation to Western medicine. It is because of these women we are able to live our lives without fear of contracting the debilitating or disfiguring diseases of past and present, and young girls have role models for a career in science.

‘Women and Girls in Science’ of the Past:

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689 – 1762) remembered as a writer and poet, frequently wrote on the contemporary attitude towards women’s intelligence and social progress in society. She also introduced smallpox inoculation to Western medicine after observing the procedure and success in the Ottoman Empire.

Dr. Anna Wessels Williams (1863 – 1954): the first woman elected to the American Public Health Association as chair of the laboratory section. Her early work on the isolation of a strain of diphtheria was later used to develop a diphtheria vaccine.

Dr. Pearl Kendrick (1890 – 1980) and Dr. Grace Eldering (1900 – 1988), along with chemist and researcher, Loney Clinton Gordon, created the first pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine. Once the vaccine was developed, Dr. Kendrick and Dr. Eldering combined the new pertussis vaccine with the diphtheria and tetanus vaccines into one shot, creating the DTP vaccine.

Today’s ‘Women and Girls in Science’:

As the world continues the fight against COVID-19, we are finally beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel with vaccine development. Teams of scientists and researchers are racing to find a vaccine, with at least one woman in a top role for all front-running vaccinations.

Dr. Katalin Karikó’s collaborative work on injecting RNA into humans is allowing scientists to create vaccines without causing excess inflammation. Her continued work on mRNA is enabling front-running vaccine developers to create faster, safer, and easier to manufacture COVID vaccines.

Dr. Kathrin Jansen, Head of Vaccine Research and Development for Pfizer, is working with the company to produce their COVID vaccine. She has also developed two other vaccines, one for human papilloma virus (HPV) and the other for pneumococcus.

Dr. Sarah Gilbert, vaccinologist, professor at the University of Oxford, and co-founder of Vaccitech, started her career on malaria vaccines. She has worked on a universal influenza vaccine, Ebola vaccine, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) vaccine before beginning work on the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID vaccine.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021:

With multiple COVID vaccinations now developed, and doses in the early stages of production and distribution. We can finally pause long enough on this International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021 to say… “Thank you.” Thank you to the women in science, both past and present, for aiding humanity and its future. Thank you to the teams of researchers and scientists who worked diligently to ensure we wouldn’t keep losing loved ones. Lastly, thank you to the young girls who worked to follow their scientific dreams.

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