Science museum

The Science Museum to present the miracle of the Covid vaccine

When Chinese scientists released the genetic code for the novel coronavirus in January 2020, they fired the starting gun for scientists around the world to begin work on developing a vaccine.

By year’s end, vaccines created by laboratories from Oxford, England to Mainz, Germany in Cambridge, Massachusetts had produced doses approved by regulations that would save millions of lives and change the course of the pandemic.

The remarkable story of the Covid-19 vaccine – from the 24-hour work of brilliant scientists to the discreet engagement of vaccine trial volunteers – will be showcased in a major new exhibit opening next year at the Science Museum in London.

“The pandemic and the immunization program are on everyone’s lips. This is something that is obviously important to all of us, ”said Natasha McEnroe, custodian of the museum’s medicine and curator of the exhibition which will open simultaneously in the UK, India and China. “And we really want to make it an international project because the pandemic, by definition, is global. “

The idea for an exhibition arose out of the Science Museum‘s Covid-19 collection project, which saw curators rushing to collect items as soon as the first alarm bells around the virus started ringing.

They were spurred on by the mistakes of the past. From a drug collection of more than 150,000 objects, the museum holds only five relics linked to the Spanish flu of 1918, a pandemic that killed up to 100 million people.

“Conservatives who are interested in the history of medicine are very attentive to this stuff and have realized by the super smart scientists (that) this is really important. So we started collecting… trying to capture elements of the pandemic for future generations, ”says McEnroe.

A selection of objects from the COVID Collecting Project

/ Science museum group

In addition to “small pieces of ephemeral” such as home tests, social distancing signs and handmade masks, in December 2020 two new artifacts joined the collection: the vial and syringe used in the historic first jab administered during the UK mass vaccination against Covid-19. program.

“And really, the exposure came from there – it was clear that there were elements of the pandemic that were critically important, and obviously vaccination is part of it,” she says.

Margaret Keenan, 90, becomes the first person to receive the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine, at Coventry University Hospital in central England on December 8, 2020.

The Science Museum, which became one of London’s most atmospheric vaccination centers during the pandemic, has partnered with the National Council of Science Museums in India and the Guangdong Science Center in China to prepare the exhibit, which will open its doors in November 2022.

“We are working together to create a shared vision, and for all three exhibitions to open simultaneously, then tour (in each country). So we are all going to look at vaccination, with regard to our own countries, but also with international elements, ”explains Ms. McEnroe.

By shining a light on behind-the-scenes vaccine development processes, conservatives expect one of the outcomes of the exhibits to be addressing issues of vaccine reluctance.

“By arming people with facts, we can actually play a really crucial role,” she says. “We explain that it’s not that this vaccine was suddenly discovered under a rock, it didn’t come out of nowhere. It is based on years of vaccine research. Just by explaining all of these things, we hope it will be a really positive engagement for people. “

Natasha McEnroe, Keeper of Medicine, receives her Covid-19 vaccine at the Science Museum in London

The London exhibition aims to reach out to young people considering a career in science, by spotlighting heroes of the vaccination program, such as Sarah Gilbert and Catherine Green, the two scientists from Oxford who delivered the AstraZeneca vaccine in one step record.

“I’m also interested in the role of the volunteer – volunteers for trials, volunteers at vaccination centers,” says McEnroe. “The person driving the truck is just as important as the technician who has his head in the lab’s safety cabinet, who is just as important as the mathematician who breaks the code. These are all these different roles that are interrelated. This is what we really hope to inspire but also surprise visitors.

“The exhibits will cover areas of inequality in vaccine deployment, and in particular how to bring the immunization program to remote rural areas. This huge undertaking will be a key part of the history of immunization in India, ”Ms. McEnroe said.

Science museum group

From traditional curiosities in shop windows to engagement and digital events, Hunt for the Vaccine aims to illuminate the work behind what could be considered one of the most significant scientific breakthroughs in history – achieved, according to Ms McEnroe , thanks to an international collaboration that began with the sharing of the genome sequence.

“It’s this generosity to share information, so everyone all over the world this weekend in January started working on this code. I think that kind of collaborative spirit is really important, ”she says.


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