On Immunity

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

On Immunity 
An Inoculation 
by Eula Biss 
★★★★ 

I'd like to start by saying I do not have kids. I think the topic of immunity and vaccination is an incredibly personal one and if you are a mother who is even thinking deeply about these things you are already doing your best you can to care for your kids. 

Biss' book is a nonfiction look into the history of vaccination and a discussion of some of the current issues. She presents the information without berating people. I love the details she gives about milkmaids, cowpox, the development of the polio vaccination and so much more. She brings the topic to life by giving it a background and talking about real examples throughout history. She also makes a fascinating connection between disease and Bram Stoker's Dracula. He stands as he example of the plague and sickness we fear, sucking our life away 

She brings the AIDS crisis into the book to show an example of how the views of disease have become driven by fear and sometimes even a belief that if we do things "right" we can protect ourselves and our children. She talks about her own experiences and the decisions she's made with her child. She presents current CDC or WHO statistics about disease and outbreaks around the world. 

One of the most interesting aspects to me was the explanation of herd immunity and the important part it plays in protecting people with compromised immune systems. She pulls no punches when talking about scare tactics that are sometimes used based on no fax or incorrect or false studies that have already been disproved. It really made me think about where we get our information and the tendency that all people have to believe things without fact checking them. 

BOTTOM LINE: I wanted to learn more about this issue from a well-researched source and so this book worked well for me. Everyone will approach this issue with their own belief system, so that will obviously affect your view of the material, but I thought she did an excellent job. I especially appreciated how she drew a clear line between what was packed and what was her opinion. 

“Wealthier countries have the luxury of entertaining fears the rest of the world cannot afford.”

7 comments:

Jillian said...

Interesting. I've been getting into more non-fiction lately, especially if it's something that will teach me and inform me along the way. I think this is such a touchy subject, but I think it is something that needs to be talked about. Even argued about. Without these conversations, many people stay unaware and just jump into conclusions based on popular opinions.
I might look into this if I get the chance to pick it up from the library.

Kay said...

I think this is an interesting topic and certainly one that is in the news these days. While I have my own opinion, I think this book sounds interesting. Always enjoy finding out about the history of things - the whole Dracula discussion sounds intriguing.

JoAnn said...

I just started listening and think it's very good so far. As a pharmacist and mother of three, my views are pretty much set in stone at this point.

Heather said...

I recently got the audiobook of this. I already know where I stand on the issue, but would still love to learn more.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jillian - I love nonfiction. I'm also a big fan of learning more about an issue (both sides) before making my own mind up about it. It takes more effort, but I like to have all the facts.

Kay - The Dracula thing was surprising, but she used it in an interesting way to illustrate her point.

JoAnn - I'll be interested to know what you think! As someone without kids and little knowledge of the pharmaceutical world, I'm very new to the issue.

Heather - It's interesting even if you know your views.

Trish said...

I've been saving this post until I wrote up my own. The Dracula connection was a really interesting one and made me want to read the book (I still can't believe I haven't!). It almost made me wonder if this started as a dissertation and then was published into a book.

But what really amazes me about the topic is the fear mongering. I do respect that it's every mother's personal decision, but even this morning my aunt posted a thing on FB about the vaccines in 1980 and the list for now. Seeing all those shots IS scary, but so is the current rise of measles due to the lack of vaccinations. I appreciated that Biss provided such a clear-headed approach to the topic.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Trish - Now that you mentioned that dissertation thing I can definitely see that. The fear mongering thing was really shocking. It's sad that the world works that way, but it definitely does.