A New Arrow in the Pro-vaccine Quiver: Eula Biss's On Immunity

I'm often accused of not seeing the other side of the vaccine "debate". I think that's a fair description of me, but it's for a good reason--there is no other side. However, it is understandable that a lay person inundated with multiple layers of misinformation may be honestly mistaken and fall prey to the anti-vaccine movement. Once in the clutches of the movement, it can be hard to reach such people. For example, the standard vaccine books often do not make any headway against what is, for many, a largely emotional conclusion against the power of vaccines. As such, many physicians feel resigned to accept that some people are unable to be swayed. However, there is a new tool available.

Eula Biss's On Immunity: An Inoculation is a remarkable book that I believe will fill an important niche in the defense of vaccines and has the potential of persuading those who doubt the benefit of vaccines to re-examine their conclusions. The book is a journey through the honest deliberations Ms. Biss herself undertook with the birth of her son. Rightly concerned with her newborn's safety and protecting him from harm (like the mother of Achilles--see the cover art), Ms. Biss's diligence to unpack arguments for and against vaccines is instructive as it shows how an active mind approaches complex issues and weighs the testimony and work of experts--an important trait that extends beyond vaccines.

 The comparative advantage and immense value of Ms. Biss's book is that it offers the reader a glimpse of how a non-medical individual approaches the issue of vaccination, what context of knowledge is activated, and how risk is assessed. In all of these realms, Ms. Biss excels and provides ample data (as well as expertly chosen anecdotes) to concretize the important points she makes throughout. 

Doing battle with those who would return us to the primitive with their opposition to vaccines--an unmitigated triumph of technology--will be a little easier with Ms. Biss at our side. I highly recommend her book.