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About the Author

Arthur Allen has written for the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, the Associated Press, Science, and Slate. His books include Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine's Greatest Lifesaver. He lives in Washington, where he writes about health for Politico.


Vaccines fighting this season's flu strain, cervical cancer, shingles, and childhood inner-ear infections have hit the news, while medical researchers, funded by Gates Foundation dollars, labor feverishly to develop vaccines against the Third World curses of tuberculosis, malaria, and AIDS. The undeniable history of disease prevention via vaccine, however, masks thousands of individual and familial tragedies, the unintended consequences of contaminated vaccines or catastrophic immune reactions. While most parents view routine inoculations as a sacred responsibility, others see a herd of Trojan horses that threaten a beloved child. Noted Washington-based journalist Allen has explored these issues in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Atlantic Monthly. Here, he authoritatively and objectively records the miracles, controversies, and tragedies that have accompanied the development of vaccines since Edward Jenner first combated smallpox in the 18th century. A separate chapter explores the alleged relationship between thimerosal, a vaccine preservative, and autism. This compelling narrative of the vaccine's undoubted triumphs and troubling challenges is highly recommended to serious readers interested in medicine and public health. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/06.]-Kathy Arsenault, Univ. of South Florida at St. Petersburg Lib. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"This is a well-researched portrayal of immunisation, from the earliest pioneers to an arm of preventive medicine now thoroughly entangled in politics, commerce and public relations." New Scientist "For those interested in the politics and debate of compulsory vaccination, and the personalities involved in all sides of the fight, Vaccine is a good read." Nature "One of the joys of Allen's well-researched but never boring 500-page history is that he pricks both camps, taking a critical look at both the anti-vaccinists' championing of pseudo-science and the medical establishment's repeated tendency to downplay the genuine dangers of vaccine side-effects." The Guardian "A fascinating, meticulously researched history of vaccination which is admirable for its even-handedness." The Independent"

Vaccines are one of the most important and controversial achievements in public health. Washington-based journalist Allen explores in depth this dark horse of medicine from the first instances of doctors saving patients from smallpox by infecting them with it to the current controversy over vaccinating preteen girls against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer. One thing becomes very clear: fear of vaccination is not a recent problem. In colonial America, inoculations against smallpox were seen by many as a means of deflecting the will of God. In the 20th century, the triumphs of the Salk polio vaccine and the eradication of smallpox may actually have led to current antivaccination movements: "as infectious diseases disappeared, in part thanks to vaccines, the risks of vaccination itself were thrown into relief." Allen's comprehensive, often unexpected and intelligently told history illuminates the complexity of a public health policy that may put the individual at risk but will save the community. This book leaves the reader with a sense of awe at all that vaccination has accomplished and trepidation over the future of the vaccine industry. 16 pages of illus. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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