Eula Biss was already an award-winning author when she decided to turn her focus on vaccines. Indeed, as with others, she was interested because she was becoming a parent and as a result, vaccines were now on her radar. The result, Biss’s newest book, On Immunity: An Inoculation, is likely to find its way to the radar of many other new parents.
Published by Graywolf Press, On Immunity is unique in its approach to discussing vaccines in that it is a narrative told from the point of view of someone writing about the information while on the journey of discovery. Biss discusses not only specific vaccine safety topics, such as mercury and autism, but she also spends much time orienting readers to the workings of the immune system.
One of the most fascinating aspects for practitioners and others who think about and discuss vaccines on a daily basis may well be the perspective of moms conversing outside of the medical environment. For example, even in the first few pages of the book, Biss writes of the H1N1 pandemic (p. 8):
“The mothers I knew began debating whether or not to vaccinate our children against the novel influenza virus long before any vaccine became available to us. We were hearing that what made this particular strain of flu dangerous was that it was new to humans, like the virus that caused the Spanish-flu epidemic of 1918 in which more than 50 million people died. But then we were also hearing that the vaccine had been produced hurriedly and that it might not have been fully tested.”
In addition to outlining what was making headlines about vaccines as she wrote the book, Biss also describes what was happening in the world — reminding readers of the complexity of decision-making and how seemingly unrelated events may play a role in the decisions ultimately made about vaccines. For example, pointing out that trust in government was low during the period of the aforementioned H1N1 pandemic because of the wars on terror and the poor economy, Biss guides readers to see how easy it was to conclude that the government may well have been making decisions for the sole benefit of vaccine companies, even when that wasn’t the case.
On Immunity: An Inoculation is an interesting and unique perspective on a subject that has been written about extensively. Even readers who are well-versed in the subject matter are likely to come away with a fresh perspective.
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