Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine's Greatest Lifesaver

Arthur Allen, Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine's Greatest Lifesaver, (2007). [***] This was an impulse buy at our wonderful local bookstore in Philadelphia, Big Blue Marble. After I bought it, I wondered why, and once I started reading it, I wondered why even more, but having paid a lot for a hardcover book, I soldiered through. My motivation, I suppose, was to clarify and solidify my own thinking about vaccination, and this book did help me do that (I'm a big proponent, and therefore quite an anomaly to other extended-breastfeeding, co-sleeping, sling-wearing, cloth-diapering, "stay-at-home" moms). I was hoping this would be a well-researched, balanced, and historical account of vaccination with a narrative arc that would make it a compelling and relatively easy-to-follow read; it was all of the former, but regretfully none of the latter. I had confirmed mostly what I already believed about vaccination: that notwithstanding all sorts of political idiocy, corporate greed, medical hubris, and gross miscalculations that cost lives, vaccination is a modern public health miracle; and that mostly the folks who are opposed to vaccination could be dismissed as just silly if their misinformation campaigns, born (with a few poignant exceptions) of privilege and too much time on their hands weren't gaining so much traction as to be putting the public health (and especially the health of those already most vulnerable) at risk. I just wish the book held together better. The story of vaccination is a compelling drama, and deserved a better handling.

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