Immunization: How Vaccines Became Controversial

. 9781780238371. Feemster, Kristen A. Vaccines: What Everyone Needs To Know®. Oxford Univ. Nov. 2017. 256p. bibliog. ISBN 9780190277918. pap. $16.95. MED
From vaccine hesitancy to virulent anti-vaccine views, parents are questioning what used to be considered a triumph of public health—vaccines. As so often happens with debates on controversial issues, emotion often trumps information. These two new books offer refreshingly fact-based alternatives to the vitriol dominating the current conversation on vaccines.Feemster (pediatric infectious disease & health policy, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia) offers a concise yet comprehensive introduction to vaccines: how they work; are developed, financed, and distributed; how laws and policies related to vaccines are established; how vaccines are tested and monitored for safety; and why some parents hesitate to vaccinate. This book reads like an extended FAQ, with a few paragraphs of explanation under headers such as "What are active surveillance networks?" While clearly provaccination, Feemster informs without pontificating.Blume's (emeritus, science & technology studies, Univ. of Amsterdam) work is more opinionated, but his thesis does not fit neatly into the pro- or anti-vax camps. Though the title references the vaccine controversy, the author addresses that topic directly only in the last chapter. The remainder of the book introduces vaccines and vaccine technology, then recounts a detailed political and social history of vaccines, focusing primarily on Europe and the United States. From Cold War politics to neoliberal economics, Blume puts policy and advancement into a broader context in which public health sometimes takes a back seat to other, less noble concerns. His central argument, articulated in the final chapter, is that vaccine hesitancy is rooted in mistrust of the institutions that promote them—especially governments and pharmaceutical companies. Both books are for an educated lay audience and include extensive citations.
VERDICT While the prose can be dry, readers who wish to be informed of the current debate and issues surrounding it will appreciate the clear, fact-based approaches of both authors.
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