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>>

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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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Pulling together years of accumulated research on a topic he has written about for several national publications, Allen recounts the 200-year history of vaccination, from its first employment to combat smallpox, "the first and only contagious disease ever eradicated" by a vaccine, to the present, in which decades of unanswered questions plus low profit margins for vaccine development threaten its future. Allen undertakes a ponderous mission indeed because there has been so much controversy, most recently regarding an alleged link between autism and a vaccine, and disagreement over the efficacy of various vaccines. A 2005 study found little difference in fatality rates between elderly flu shot recipients and those who didn't get the shots, and then there's the whole discussion about how much social responsibility the individual must bear when getting a vaccination that puts the recipient at risk of unwanted side effects but also helps protect the community from an epidemic. Thorny issues all, which Allen deftly maneuvers as he wrangles myriad aspects of a very complicated issue into a comprehensible text. Donna Chavez
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