walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

rubella, roe v wade and placenta impenetrability

What is up with Australians? Very shortly after antibiotics became widely available, there were some doctors in New York City who were convinced they were the Way to Cure Ulcers. Since the model for how to show that X causes Y is complex (first, isolate X. Then, give X to something else. Then isolate X from the something else. etc.) and the digestive system in humans presents tough problems to satisfying that model, some overly conservative senior docs pounded the heck out of people prescribing antibiotics for ulcers.

It would be decades before the truth would come out: antibiotics _are_ a way to cure ulcers caused by H. pylori. It was tough convincing the US medical system (heck, a lot of docs _still_ act like this isn't true). Guess who figured it out? Some people in Australia.

In reading _Having Faith_ (a problematic book, but a review will be forthcoming), I ran across the description of rubella causing birth defects and how a guy in Australia figured out what was going on (despite widespread, unconscionable belief that the placenta Stopped All Badness from reaching the fetus). That was interesting. Then, in 1964, a big rubella epidemic maimed "20,000 children...in the United States alone. Desperate mothers sought legal abortions in Japan, petitioned courts to have them here, or turned to illegal abortionists."

Steingraber goes on to mention the first vaccine for rubella being marketed in 1969. Me, I'm going, that is _so_ not the interesting part of this story (altho of course I am thankful for the existence of this vaccine). I'm a little sensitive to these dates (R. was born in 1964; I was born in 1969) and I have a little history timeline in my head of interesting and important events and the next thing I thought of was, _that_ is why Roe v. Wade happened when it happened. Because let me tell you, I've been utterly and completely mystified for years it seemed so not-quite-the-right-time for it.

Want to know more about the details? This is an enlightening summary. But I'm still learning so I don't know how accurate it is:


ETA: FWIW, Massachusetts requires a blood test for seropositivity for rubella to get a marriage license (for women, regardless of age, IIRC). You don't have to _show_ seropositivity; I think the idea is just to make sure you know, one way or the other. I didn't show seropositivity. Given the time frame, and the then-current advice on how long to wait after being vaccinated before getting pregnant, I decided to rely upon herd immunity (and where we live) to protect us and that all turned out just fine. The test was redone at some point during my prenatal care, and the midwives in Seattle were quite, quite, quite adamant about making sure they got that vaccine to me very shortly after the birth. At some point after _that_, I was retested and showed immunity. As near as I can tell, from now on, we're never supposed to check again, and even if I don't show seropositivity, I'm still not supposed to get reimmunized.

I _was_ immunized for this as a child. I have my doubts, at times, about these tests and my body, because I also had chickenpox when I was a few months old, and don't show seropositivity for that, either.

ETA2: While the problems with thalidomide were discovered simultaneously by more than one person, it's worth noting that one of them was an Australian, one William McBride who wrote a letter that was published in The Lancet.

ETA3: R. adds that while lead is mined in Australia, it was banned from paint way sooner in Australia than elsewhere (the teens?) because they recognized it as a problem. It's not like these people are smarter in general; their sheep grazing and water rights policies have been fucked up for decades before they corrected them -- still working on the water rights issue.

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