February 23, 2017 | HILLEMAN: A Perilous Quest to Save the World’s Children | Lewisburg, WV
“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Well, it seems you must first have your film selected for the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation On Screen/In Person series, then travel to Lewisburg, West Virginia to screen it there. This beautiful Georgian Revival style structure was built in 1902 with a substantial donation from Andrew Carnegie, hence the name “Carnegie Hall.” In fact, there are just a few such buildings in the United States (and abroad) that can claim the name, which places West Virginia among a distinct few.
At the time of Carnegie’s gift, the only real vaccine available to West Virginians would have been against smallpox, a terrifying disease that had claimed many millions of lives around the globe for millennia. It was a vaccine that worked well, but how it worked was not well understood. In fact, how disease worked in general was poorly understood. Most people, indeed most physicians, believed that common infections were caused by bad air, or decaying matter, or an imbalance of the “humors” in our bodies (whatever those are). But scientists in Europe had been pushing a new theory about the cause of disease, which they called “germ theory.” It was a radical concept, claiming that diseases were caused by tiny organisms in the form of bacteria, or the more recently discovered “non-filterable agents” known today as viruses. It took some time for science in the United States to catch up and accept this new “theory,” but of course we eventually did. Today the idea that germs cause disease is no theory, but rather common sense understood by all.
And today West Virginia holds another unique distinction among American states: it is one of only three in the country that does not permit religious or personal exemptions from school immunization requirements. Mississippi is another and California, with its recent Disneyland measles outbreaks, became the most recent state to determine only medical exemptions should be a reason not to vaccinate.
Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker, Donald Mitchell