ASK Musings

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April 2017



Deadly Choices by Paul A. Offit

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for: People looking for some solid details on how vaccines work and facts about what they do and don’t lead to.

In a nutshell: Infectious diseases expert provides an easy-to-read and detailed explanation of the history of anti-vaccine movements, from the 1800s to today.

Line that sticks with me: “Because anti-vaccine activists today define safe as free from side effects such as autism, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, and blood clots — conditions that aren’t caused by vaccines — safer vaccines, using their definition, can never be made.”

Why I chose it: I purchased this at the public health conference I attended this week. Seemed appropriate.

Review: If you look at the reviews on Amazon, over half are five stars, while nearly 40% are 1 star. I think you can guess why.

Dr. Offit doesn’t put up with any bullshit on the topic of vaccines. He has the credentials to back up his statements: he teaches vaccinology and pediatrics and was involved in the creation of the rotavirus vaccine.

He’s also a talented writer – he does a great job of explaining the history of vaccines in an interesting and compelling way, as well as breaking down, point by point, the current anti-vaccine movement that started in the early 1980s. He talks about the vaccine court that was set up in the late 1980s, as well as some of the campaigns led by celebrities that have greatly harmed public health in general, and individual children and families specifically.

Some of the myths he takes on are ones I’ve heard even my most educated, pro-vaccine friends talk about (specifically, why should we give babies the Hepatitis B vaccine). He also discusses why Dr. Sears’s “alternative schedule” is both unnecessary and dangerous, given how it hasn’t been studied nearly as closely as the schedule recommended by the CDC.

I work in public health; specifically, emergency preparedness and response. In just the past year we’ve dealt with mumps outbreaks in elementary schools and colleges, among other issues. It is so frustrating to see so many people who should know better choose to ignore all of the science and just ‘go with their gut’ or worse – go with the manipulations of the large anti-vaccination organizations. My county is also home to one of the worst offenders when it comes to vaccine rates – Vashon Island – and it was embarrassing to read about that community as one of Dr. Offit’s examples.

Look, I get that there are millions of choices parents need to make about how they want to raise their children. But this choice to withhold medical care is not only harmful to their child, but harmful to the entire community. There are people who cannot get vaccines because they are immunocompromised or allergic to the ingredients or just too young, and those people die because of the choices these selfish parents make. I wish more people would get that.

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