Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine's Greatest Lifesaver

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W. W. Norton, 2008 - Medical - 523 pages
2 Reviews
In 1796, as smallpox ravaged Europe, Edward Jenner injected a child with a benign version of the disease, then exposed the child to the deadly virus itself. The boy proved resistant to smallpox and Jenner's risky experiment produced the earliest vaccination. This deftly written account reveals a history of vaccination that is both illuminated with hope and shrouded by controversy - from Jenner's discovery to Pasteur's vaccines for rabies and cholera, to those that safeguarded the children of the twentieth century and to the tumult surrounding vaccination today. Arthur Allen explores our shifting understanding of vaccination since its creation. Faced with threats from anthrax to AIDS, we can no longer depend on vaccines; numerous studies have linked childhood vaccination with various neurological disorders and pharmaceutical companies are more attracted to the profits of treatment than to the prevention of disease.

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A delightful and readable review of the main issues facing vaccination today. Speaks to valid criticism, but also does not pander to fearmongering. Allen gives an even-handed overview of the topic at hand, highlighting the successes and failures of the history of vaccination and where work still needs to be done. An interesting read that will be convincing to anyone but the a priori convinced. 

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About the author (2008)

Arthur Allen has written for the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, the Associated Press, Science, and Slate. His books include Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver. He lives in Washington, where he writes about health for Politico.

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