Author: Arthur Allen
Genre: Historical Nonfiction
Vaccines are one of the most important and controversial achievements in public health. Washington-based journalist Allen explores in depth this dark horse of medicine from the first instances of doctors saving patients from smallpox by infecting them with it to the current controversy over vaccinating preteen girls against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer. One thing becomes very clear: fear of vaccination is not a recent problem. In colonial America, inoculations against smallpox were seen by many as a means of deflecting the will of God. In the 20th century, the triumphs of the Salk polio vaccine and the eradication of smallpox may actually have led to current antivaccination movements: "as infe ctious diseases disappeared, in part thanks to vaccines, the risks of vaccination itself were thrown into relief." Allen's comprehensive, often unexpected and intelligently told history illuminates the complexity of a public health policy that may put the individual at risk but will save the community. This book leaves the reader with a sense of awe at all that vaccination has accomplished and trepidation over the future of the vaccine industry.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I enjoyed it’s enthralling description of the development of vaccines, the straightforward and unpretentious manner it put forward the information and the neutral manner that it told of the misguided attempts to ban vaccines as a public health risk. The only problem with this book was that the author was, rather unfortunately, too neutral in his approach. I apologize, but if an individual claims that the smallpox vaccine causes more deaths than smallpox itself, I am going to voice my opinion that this individual never reproduce and be locked up in a mental asylum for the remainder of their days. Individuals who oppose vaccination are threats to public health, pure and simple. These individuals fail to understand that Public Health will always regard the needs of the many over the needs of the few, if a highly virulent disease is set to kill thousands of people and a dozen or so have a bad reaction to the vaccine and die, then that is life and to do otherwise would be highly irresponsible. At the same time however, I admire Mr. Allen for keeping his opinions to himself on a topic I would be hopelessly enraged over. I highly recommend this book, for its entertainment value just as much for its informative value.