Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All

Paul A. Offit, Author
Paul A. Offit, M.D., Basic, $27.50 (304p) ISBN 978-0-465-02149-9
Reviewed on: 12/20/2010
Release date: 12/01/2010
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-465-05796-2
Hardcover - 256 pages - 978-0-465-02854-2
Paperback - 270 pages - 978-0-465-02962-4
Ebook - 289 pages - 978-0-465-02356-1
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In the second book this season (after journalist Seth Mnookin's The Panic Virus) to attack vaccine paranoia, Offit—who drew antivaccinist fire for Autism's False Prophets—presents a smart, hard-hitting exposé of vaccine pseudoscience. Offit brings outstanding credentials to the subject: he's a vaccinologist at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia and an expert in infectious diseases, and he tackles claims that childhood inoculations cause brain damage, autism, diabetes, and cancer, finding a farrago of misinformation, faulty research, and sly deceptions fed to distraught parents by media hype, ax-grinding activists, and personal-injury lawyers. He embellishes his account with a sprightly history of paranoid medical populism—19th-century critics of the cowpox-derived smallpox vaccine insisted it could turn people into cows—and a blistering attack on celebrity antivaccine ideologues Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey, and Bill Maher and the medical writers who pander to parental anxieties. Offit dwells less than Mnookin on the sociology of the controversy and more on the science. The result is a thorough dismantling of antivaccine notions and a sober warning about the resurgence of deadly childhood infections stemming from declining vaccination rates. Worried parents, especially, will find this a lucid, compelling riposte to antivaccine fear-mongering. Photos. (Feb.)
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