You Bet Your Life: From Blood Transfusions to Mass Vaccination, the Long and Risky History of Medical Innovation

Basic. Sept. 2021. 272p. ISBN 9781541620391. $28. MED
Offit is an American pediatrician, a nationally renowned virology and immunology expert, and a prolific consumer health book author (Overkill: When Modern Medicine Goes Too Far). His new title comes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which Offit has served on the FDA’s vaccination advisory committee and on a similar committee for the NIH. He reflects on the highly unusual and unique factors in the development of fast-tracked COVID-19 vaccines, which he contextualizes with nine historical medical advances. He describes the earliest research and experiments with vaccination (starting in the late 1800s) and addresses racial and disability injustice in both historical and modern medicine. In an epilogue titled “Living with Uncertainty,” Offit highlights seven themes that affect current vaccine decisions, regarding the level of risk individuals and society are willing to undertake to make medical progress. He acknowledges the existence of uncertainty and the risks required for the work of medical explorers of the modern age, along with the near inevitability of such risk. Offit illustrates his points with relevant examples from the development of COVID-19 vaccines.
VERDICT A well-written and informative look at the reality of medical advancement, including poignant examples of its often-fatal repercussions.
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