Of all the infectious diseases commonly suffered by U.S, citizens, rubella is the disease that is most closely linked to birth defects. When a young woman inquires about getting vaccinated against rubella, her doctor normally seeks assurance that she is not pregnant, and that she does not plan to get pregnant in the next 2 to 3 months.
A young woman who has spent her childhood in an urban area fits the profile of the woman most apt to request a vaccination against rubella. Such women have frequently had parents who failed to provide their children with routine vaccinations. When any of those same women is ready to have her own son or daughter, she does not want to bear a child with a birth defect.
The birth defect that is most often associated with rubella is mental retardation. More than thirty years ago, society’s awareness of that association formed the basis of the plot in a Julie Christie murder-mystery. Elizabeth Taylor had the female lead in the film that had taken its plot line from that same novel.
During that movie, a woman was murdered, leading detectives to launch an investigation into how she was murdered, and who did it. Slowly the detectives uncovered facts about an important conversation. It was an earlier conversation between the soon-to-be-murdered woman and the character played by Elizabeth Taylor.
Viewers of that film had learned at some point about the child that the female lead kept hidden from society. That child remained hidden because that child exhibited the signs of mental retardation. That fact related to the conversation uncovered by the detectives’ investigation.
The detectives discovered that the murdered woman, who had talked with the lead character (Elizabeth Taylor), had mentioned an earlier meeting she had had with that very same female. That earlier meeting had taken place while the lead character was with child. The murder victim revealed an important fact during the second meeting of the two women. She said that she had come down with rubella not long after that first meeting.
The detectives who discovered the nature of the second meeting then had a motive for a murder. The mother played by Elizabeth Taylor had discovered who had given her the rubella that had then caused her to have a mentally retarded child. The female lead had proceeded to murder the woman responsible for her overwhelming sense of unhappiness.
That movie served as a fine example of the way that a Hollywood production could help to supplement the information that was reaching the public. It illustrated how the importance of any issue might be reinforced by the right sort of plot line, and inclusion in the cast of a popular star.