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.


Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier

Journalist Arthur Allen navigates a tremendous amount of research to tell the story of vaccine, perhaps the world's greatest medical achievement.

In this comprehensive work, colorful anecdotes, compelling arguments and historical insights shed light on this revolutionary and controversial weapon against infectious disease. At the same time, Allen tells a parallel history of failure, deadly reactions and the public's confusion over vaccine's efficacy and necessity. He raises complex questions about individual rights versus public good, and the moral ambiguity of sacrificing the one to save the many.

Allen claims the anti-vaccine movement is nearly as old as vaccines themselves, beginning with the Puritans who thought scratching a small amount of smallpox virus into the skin a challenge to God's will. Counted among the most famous detractors, British dramatist George Bernard Shaw and Henry Bergh, founder of the SPCA. And the movement's most unlikely, yet most enduring symbol: the Raggedy Ann doll.

Since the early 20th century, contaminated vaccines, DTP injuries and a purported link to autism have fueled efforts to ban mandatory immunization in America. The most recent controversy stems from efforts to vaccinate preteen girls against HPV, or human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer.

Allen also details public health's role, its early triumphs and failures as it tries to produce safer vaccines and enforce immunization in the midst of smallpox epidemics.

Vaccine's champions also are profiled, beginning with Edward Jenner's 1796 smallpox discovery that formed the basis for understanding immunity. Allen includes Louis Pasteur's work with rabies and cholera and Albert Sabin's and Jonas Salk's polio breakthroughs. He credits the Army's fear of bioterrorism and tropical disease, as well as a polio-stricken president, for ushering in the golden age of immunization in the 1940s.

Small chapters divide in a readable format the discovery of vaccines for nearly forgotten diseases, such as diphtheria, measles, typhoid, typhus and whooping cough.

It's hard to imagine, but according to this history, in the early 20th century, some diseases killed more young American children in one day than SARS has in a year. A sobering thought for parents who ignore their babies' booster shots or complain about school-entry laws.

Informative histories on infectious disease, including a spate of works on the black plague and 1918 superflu, appear to be a publishing trend that mirrors, no doubt, our own current events. "Vaccine," which includes a number of illustrations and photographs, is a commendable companion to these histories.--Victoria Hood, March 4, 2007.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier:


The comments to this entry are closed.