The latest book by VEC Director, Dr. Paul Offit, was released on Sept. 21, 2021. In You Bet Your Life: From Blood Transfusions to Mass Vaccination, the Long and Risky History of Medical Innovation, Dr. Offit discusses nine areas of medicine in which the “fits and starts” of scientific research could dramatically, and in some cases heartbreakingly, be demonstrated.

As we live through a pandemic characterized by fear resulting from misinformation, lack of understanding about how scientific knowledge matures, and politicization of the situation for personal or party benefit, conversations about risk have become all the more important. Often when people are making decisions, they see their choice as “doing” or “not doing” something without realizing that “not doing” something also has consequences. Witness the stories carried by the media in which people on their deathbeds begged their families to get vaccinated even though they, themselves, did not. Indeed, doing nothing or “waiting for more information” is, in fact, making a decision that can have real-world consequences.

In You Bet Your Life, Dr. Offit addresses the COVID-19 pandemic while using lessons learned from heart transplants, blood transfusions, anesthesia, biologicals, antibiotics, vaccines, X-rays, chemotherapy, and gene therapy. He concludes by offering seven considerations related to the uncertainty with which we all live — ultimately reminding readers, “In the end, no matter how well informed you are about a new technology, you’re gambling. But you’re gambling either way” (p. 219).

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Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Vaccine Education Center staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

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