cover image Between Hope and Fear: A History of Vaccines and Human Immunity

Between Hope and Fear: A History of Vaccines and Human Immunity

Michael Kinch. Pegasus, $27.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-68177-751-1

Kinch (A Prescription for Change), director of the Center for Research Innovation in Biotechnology at Washington University in St. Louis, studiously chronicles some of the worst disease outbreaks in human history and the development of the vaccines that stanched the tide of suffering. He traces the trail of smallpox from its early days as the “Antonine Plague” in ancient Rome, through the arrival of the Spanish in the New World, to the eventual development of the smallpox vaccine by Edward Jenner in 1796. He recalls the development of the drug AZT, used to treat HIV and AIDS, by a band of scientists with Nobel Prize–winning biochemist Gertrude “Trudie” Elion at the helm, and details the nationalist rivalry between Louis Pasteur and German microbiologist Robert Koch. Kinch also gives accessible science lessons in immune-activating interferons, how the T cells and B cells function in the human immune system, and the different problems in treating bacterial and viral infections. Kinch’s main purpose, however, is to warn against the dangers of the antivaccine movement, “fringe elements in the public” who believe in discredited links between various vaccines and autism. Kinch’s argument in favor of reason and science over fear and charlatanism is cogent and well-researched, presenting a large-scale chronological narrative of disease and prevention. Agent: Don Fehr, Trident Media Group. (July)