Vaccination has greatly diminished death, illness and suffering in the world. But no other medical technology has been so dogged with controversy. The book chronicles the development of the key lifesaving vaccines since the 18th century. It tells the stories of great scientists and their discoveries, of the protests and pain along the stumbling path of progress. This is the first book to tell the whole story of vaccination for a general audience. In light of controversies about flu vaccine and autism, it will be of particular interest to parents, pediatricians, public health workers and anyone fascinated by medical history. Read More>>

Also Available: Table of Contents and Index

Arthur Allen is a Washington DC-based journalist who has written on vaccine issues in The New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post Magazine, The New Republic, Atlantic Monthly, Salon and Slate.

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Thank you, Andy, for the Measles

This excellent piece by Michael Fitzpatrick in the Times of London shows what happens when enough people in a country with a lot of visitors stop vaccinating their toddlers against measles. You get a measles epidemic. Measles is a very serious disease that can kill.

A lot of the blame for this has to go to Andrew Wakefield and his bogus theory linking the MMR shot to autism. You can't fault the man for having a faulty hypothesis. But to continue profiting from it in the face of all scientific evidence is shameful, even more shameful to play the martyr when the scientific community refuses to jump in step with your foolishness.

Luckily, Americans are a bit more level-headed, or perhaps too busy watching YouTube to clue into the latest quack theories. The latest MMWR data show that vaccination rates are holding steady in the U.S., despite the scares that affect chunks of fearful parents in certain communities.

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Comments

Dawn Crim

That's pretty funny. Actually, if you knew anything about measles and viewed a U.S. medical text book from the 1950's, you would see that doctors back then claimed measles was pretty mild. Lies, lies, lies in order to sell vaccines you dope.

als.ob

I live in Italy and I had Measles when i was a kid (1980), so did all of my class virtually. None died, it was actually pretty common. Were we just lucky? The fact that none died from this disease is more scientific to me than you and your friend's quack theories. Actually, the fact that vaccination rates are holding steady in the U.S, is a proof of gullibility more than level-headness

jre

You're doing a useful service to keep this blog open; please maintain it as long as is practical.
Better yet, write a sequel to Vaccine.

The two comments above are unfortunately typical of the startling ignorance and ideological fervor of the anti-vaccine community.

I do happen to have a book old enough to treat measles in detail (Cecil, Textbook of Medicine, 1979). I don't know what "medical text book" Dawn Crim is referring to, but this one says that "[Measles-related] pneumonia resembles other forms of viral pneumonia and is often caused solely by a specific reaction to the measles virus. Superimposed bacterial infection is common, however, and accounts for most of the severe or fatal cases.". Before we had widespread immunization, measles was distressingly common, but "mild" is not the word to describe it.

Here in Boulder, we have a high rate of pertussis (thanks, Waldorf schools!) a fact I mentioned to my sister when she was visiting.
She reminded me that she had suffered a bout of whooping cough back when we were both small. She said "I remember that Dad told me later that he was torn up by hearing me cough for days, and that he wished that he had been able to be sick instead of me." My wife also suffered from pertussis as a baby, so badly that her parents were terrified they would lose her.

It is stunning to me that the experiences of my generation have been wiped away by the amnesia of those for whom infectious disease is just a bogeyman. It is no such thing, and though I feel a certain anger at the smugness and arrogance of someone who would consider sustained support for vaccination "proof of gullibility", I also hope strongly that no one will have the chance to learn just how wrong that attitude is.

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