A fascinating and topical book about vaccination and inoculation.
This is a book by an anxious mother looking into the pros and cons of the vaccination debate and looking at immunity through history. The cover picture shows Achilles dipped into the river Styx by his mother hoping to protect him, the mother holding him by his heel, the only part of him that was unprotected and thus left him vulnerable. Vaccination or inoculation has always been controversial, in the nineteenth century there were conscientious objectors to mass vaccination programmes. Now in America there are some mothers who are strongly anti-vaccination believing it to be linked with autism. It would seem the evidence is on the side of science and that it is the socially responsible thing to vaccinate your child. There is a lot in the book about herd immunity, where the vaccinated are protecting those who are unvaccinated. In the past there were mass inoculations of the poor which would indirectly protect the rich. The study linking vaccination to autism has been discredited but the nature of the internet means information, even if later corrected remains always accessible. “Misinformation that finds a host enjoys a kind of immortality on the Internet.” Eula Bliss talks to scientists and has some sympathies with the mothers who decide against vaccination. Her own son has many allergies and suffered croup.
The book goes off on many tangents looking at among other things the language of inoculation: “The British call it a “jab”, and Americans, favoring guns, call it a “shot”. Either way, vaccination is a violence.” There is also much talk of Dracula and the metaphor of Dracula as a disease, coming to England by boat as did many plagues.
It is an entertaining read and easily accessible for a non scientist like me.
My rating: 5 out of 5