56 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2012
I spied this book at our local library and knew I had to read it. I am no stranger to the controversy regarding vaccination, as it is a frequently discussed topic in the homeschooling community. Our small group is split fairly evenly between those who never miss a recommended immunization and those who would never consider any type of immunization. Fortunately, amongst our group the disagreement is amicable. (One of the things I love about homeschool- independence is valued!)
I will freely admit that I am in the pro-vaccine court. I know that side effects- even death- are possible, but in weighing the potential damage from a vaccine and potential damage from disease....well, immunization seems the lesser of evils. I expect that those who choose differently go through the same painstaking inner dialogue, they just end up in a different place. I'm okay with that.
This book is also solidly pro-vaccine, but I think it does a pretty decent job of presenting the pros AND cons of the situation. There have been situations where vaccines were contaminated. There have been situations where vaccines were just a bad idea (live polio virus). And, there have been situations where disease has swept through unvaccinated communities at an alarming rate. Offit covers all this and more, without the intense fear mongering often found in this type of manuscript. A person so inclined could skip the commentary and just read the studies presented.
He does seem to be a bit harsh when speaking about those in the anti-vaccine movement. I can certainly grasp that he thinks they are making a mistake without the thinly veiled references to their moral character. He might garner more respect from that camp if he offered it up himself!
My verdict: Read it! This book does a very good job of presenting the science behind vaccines and how it has changed over the years. Regardless of what side of the argument you choose, Deadly Choices can provide you with the facts to bolster your opinion. Although I feel it is an important enough societal issue to warrant everyone reading this book, it is a MUST read for parents.
255 of 331 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2011
The focus of Deadly Choices is on the history of the introduction of new vaccines and the anti-vaccine movements that tend to follow. Offit is a prominent virologist and he doesn't hide his scorn for some in the anti-vaccine movement. His book is unlikely to change the minds of anyone who is firmly within that movement, but I'm not sure what would. The book is a must read for anyone interested in a detailed, well-written, and thoroughly sourced discussion of the scientific basis of vaccines, the real and imagined risks of vaccination, and the consequences of the choices we make about vaccines.
The politics of the vaccine debate are powerful, and they often overshadow the substance. It's remarkable how many people managed to read and write "reviews" of this book within 2 days of its release on December 28. A few even managed to review the book before it was released! Given that few of these reviews mention anything about the book's contents, I suspect many of the reviewers, both positive and negative, have not read it.
I actually have read the book. Given that I had written about the vaccine/autism debate in the past (from the perspective of trying to understand the sorts of evidence people use when drawing causal conclusions), I requested and received a review copy of the book from the publisher 6 weeks before its publication.
Not surprisingly, the book thoroughly documents some of the unfounded claims that the anti-vaccine movement has made and explains the biological reasons why some of the perceived risks of vaccines either are not a risk or physiologically CAN'T be a risk. For example, many of the "green our vaccines" campaigns are based on the concern that there are nasty chemicals in vaccines, which is true. As Offit notes, though, it's not the substance that's the problem, it's the dose. Even water is toxic when taken in a large enough dose (on occasion, college students die during frat hazings when required to drink too much water at once). Most of the substances that scare people away from vaccines (e.g., aluminum and formaldehyde) are in our bodies and blood stream all the time. Our foods contain them, and the quantities in vaccines are relatively negligible. Similarly, babies are exposed to countless bacteria and viruses, so the fact that children get a seemingly large number of vaccines does not mean that those vaccines tax the immune system at all (Offit also notes that it's not the number of vaccines, but the number of elements within those vaccines that require an immune response).
The book is not one-sided. The first chapters discuss all of the well-documented cases of actual vaccine injury and the real side effects of vaccines (e.g., the live polio vaccine could cause polio, although most vaccines don't use live viruses). The book uses these tragic cases to document how the CDC and regulatory agencies now catch really rare side effects that didn't show up in the large-scale testing necessary for approval (side effects that are 1 in a million sometimes don't show up in testing with 50,000 people). Vaccines undergo more rigorous testing than other drugs, and the mechanisms in place to detect rare side effects work far more effectively than they do for other drugs. In order to introduce a new vaccine into the recommended schedule, testing must show that it doesn't interact in any way with the remainder of the schedule.
Offit also discusses some of the things that vaccine safety advocates could do (but haven't done) to help make vaccines safer. For example, people who have egg allergies cannot get vaccines that are made using chicken eggs (e.g., flu vaccine). There might well be alternative ways to make such vaccines, but the pharmaceutical industry has no financial or government-initiated incentives to develop those alternatives. Vaccine safety advocates could push them to do so.
Offit makes the case that anti-vaccine movements raise fears of vaccines that are inconsistent with the science. In so doing, he draws parallels between current anti-vaccine claims and those made over a century ago after the introduction of the smallpox vaccine. Many of the fears of that vaccine are laughable by today's standards (e.g., that children would develop cow-like facial features because the vaccine was initially taken from cows infected by cowpox). But Offit argues, fairly convincingly, that the logic and nature of current anti-vaccine scares are largely the same as those raised over a century ago and in each subsequent anti-vaccine movement. He also shows that most of the anti-vaccine proponents as well as self-identified vaccine safety advocates (including Dr. Bob) lack any relevant background in virology, epidemiology, or statistics, and that they typically lack the training to evaluate the actual risks of vaccines.
The most compelling chapter is the last one, in which Offit describes what happens when someone who could not be vaccinated (because they were too young) comes into contact with an infected child whose parents decided not to vaccinate. The choice not to vaccinate affects people other than your own child--it puts young infants and others whose bodies lack a typical immune response can't be vaccinated at risk. The chapter is reminiscent of the recent PBS Frontline documentary on vaccinations.
At times, the book can be a bit heavy handed in its tone--Offit's perspective is clear throughout, and he doesn't hold his punches. Sometimes his parallels between historical anti-vaccine movements and current ones are a little forced, and in a few cases, the book is perhaps a bit more dismissive than is necessary. For example, in passing Offit implies that all chiropractors reject the germ theory of disease. Although a rejection of the germ theory might have motivated chiropractors at the start, I'd hazard a guess that most present-day chiropractors accept the germ theory of disease. Overall, though, the book presents the scientific evidence in a compelling, comprehensive, thoroughly documented, and engaging way.
For prospective parents whose prior information about vaccines comes from friends, the internet, or even their pediatrician, this book is a must read by one of the top scientific experts in the field. It provides the background and evidence you need to evaluate claims about the dangers and benefits of vaccines and to make the best choice for your children AND your community.
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2013
One could easily be forgiven for thinking that the strident anti-vaccine movement began mere decades ago. In actuality, it began with the advent of the smallpox vaccine. Derived from cow ulcers, this miraculous discovery was met by superstition and panic. Although no one today believes that vaccines will mutate children into monsters, the lack of understanding regarding vaccines, their ingredients and their effects remains today. Their efforts have led to religious and philosophical objections being commonplace, almost ubiquitous, and the tragedy of the commons is becoming all too apparent.
Vaccines do not need to be "greened" any further - the toxic components are so minute that they are cleansed by the liver in a matter of hours.
The greatest threat that has come about as more parents forgo or delay vaccines and attempt quack "cures" for autism is a breakdown in herd immunity. Measles, once almost a thing of the past, has had resurgences and reached minor epidemic proportions as unvaccinated children carry the illness with them through airports. Imagine if malaria had the contagion of the common cold.
53 of 70 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2011
When I began reading this book I was of the opinion that parents should take a more active role in learning about and determining when their children should receive vaccines. After reading this book, I now feel that I have information that is necessary to making vaccination choices.
I was absolutely horrified when I found out what the diseases that we vaccinate against do to those who contract them. Having grown up without witnessing what measles, mumps, whooping cough, and others actually do to a persons body, I didn't feel overly concerned about altering the timeline for vaccination. Now, however, I realize that there is a reason to vaccinate children and to do it on schedule. But you don't have to take it from me, or Dr. Offit - this book discusses the extensive research that shows the history of vaccines and vaccine safety and enough information about that research to let you look it up on your own!
Whether you feel that you should vaccinate your children or not, you owe it to them to know the history of vaccines, what they can do, and what they can't do. If you think that vaccines should not be given, read this book so that you can hear another perspective (and know who and what you're fighting against). If you think that vaccines should be given, read this book so that you can better explain to others why you have that beliefs.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2014
A great source of factual information for any person concerned about the safety of vaccines.
The author explains in plain English, the scientific facts behind all of the arguments raised by the anti-vaccine advocates.
A must read if you are considering not vaccinating your children.
46 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2014
Dr. Offit is one of the greatest scientists of our time. His rotavirus vaccine saves hundreds of thousands of lives all over the world–EVERY YEAR. Precious lives of children.
What Dr. Offit knows about vaccines and helping children live long healthy lives gives him the bona fides to write this book. He describes the how the world of the anti-vaxxers bows at the idols of pseudoscience.
He also describes the long history of the anti-vaccine movement, one that hasn't changed in a 100 years, despite the fact that probably 100 million lives, in the USA alone, have been saved by vaccines.
I'll be honest here. Although I have a long career in biomedical research, I never paid attention to the antivaccination cultists until I read this book the first time when it was first published, and again recently.
I know this book will not open the minds of those who already reject the overwhelming scientific consensus on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. I know most of us who love the book already was convinced. But maybe one person will read this and decide to vaccinate their children. And for that, I think Paul Offit deserves our genuine appreciation.
36 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2013
I am old. Well, old enough to remember my mother CRYING with HAPPINESS when I went to get free vaccines at the local school. People were lined up for blocks. My Mom can tell you about how she never went to a public swimming pool, and summer time was TERROR of polio time. Okay, this wasn't that long ago, seriously. My mom would tell stories of the kids in iron lungs, the death, the fear, the isolation of epidemic time. I had a professor in college with withered legs and crippling post polio syndrome from his own encounter with polio. Measles was a deadly terror. Meningitis from Hib caused horrific brain damage in the survivors. But now, some lady with an autistic kid blames vaccines, and so everyone wants to stop vaccinating? Seriously? (And even if vaccines DID cause autism, I would rather have an autistic kid than a dead kid, to be honest)
YOUR decision to NOT VACCINATE hurts my children. In an outbreak, everyone is at risk. Don't be swayed by ignorance and emotionalism. Get the facts. Read this book.
And SHAME on those who attack the author of this book and try to discredit him. Where is your science degree? Conspiracy theorists, I have an extra roll of tin foil for you. Be sure to wrap it tightly.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2014
I felt that this book was very informative about how the anti vaccine movement threatens us all.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2013
A must read. This book remarks the importance of vaccination for ours kids and everybody else. It is always easy to think that we don't need vaccines when disease is under control because of them and sad to realize that many people is jeopardizing kids' lives based on false believes.
20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2014
Every parent should read this book! We all need to raise the awareness of how important vaccines are in our world and Paul Offit does that!