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Whooping Cough

Whooping Cough

GRHC - August 15th, 2012

Doctors Pearl Kendrick and Grace Eldering developed the first effective vaccine against whooping cough. By 1940 Michigan was distributing the vaccine, which would put an end to the deaths.


Due to recent outbreaks of whooping cough, we take a look back at Doctors Pearl Kendrick and Grace Eldering.

In the 1930’s, whooping cough was claiming the lives of nearly 6,000 US citizens annually, the greatest percentage being children. After years of hard work, Kendrick and Eldering would see the end of it.

In 1932, microbiologist, Dr. Kendrick, began her research at the Western Michigan Branch Laboratory of the State’s Health Department in Grand Rapids, the branch she founded in 1926 at the request of the state.

She enlisted bacteriologist Eldering, who also worked for the State Dept. of Health, to assist in her efforts. In 1932, during the depths of the Depression they devised a program of research, conducted lab experiments, and did countless field tests. This was accomplished during their “off” hours as the Health Dept. was under-staffed and there were no extra funds for research.

Ultimately they succeeded in growing pertussis (the causative) in a medium of sheep’s blood. They began inoculating area children and establishing a control group. The two were finally successful in developing the first effective vaccine against whooping cough.

By 1940, the State was distributing the vaccine that would put an end to the deaths. The two would eventually develop the combined vaccine for whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus being used today.

In 1983, the women were honored for all their contributions to the field of medicine with induction into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.

Full Details

TitleWhooping Cough
KeywordsWYCE; radio; Grand Rapids; Historical Commission; Dr. Pearl Kendrick; Dr. Grace Eldering; Whooping Cough; vaccine; history
Pubdate StringAugust 15th, 2012

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