Customer Reviews for

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

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  • Posted January 1, 2011

    a compelling review of the history of anti-vaccine movements

    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 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. The book is not one-sided, though. 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). 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. 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. 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.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 27, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    This excellent book, like Dr Offit¿s successful Autism¿s false


    This excellent book, like Dr Offit’s successful Autism’s false prophets, exposes the dangers of choosing faith-based medicine rather than evidence-based medicine. Dr Offit is the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
    Before vaccination, in the USA, measles killed 500 children a year; whooping cough infected as many as 147,000 people each year between 1940 and 1945 and killed nearly 8,000 a year; polio killed 1,000 children a year, and diphtheria killed 12,000 people, mostly young people. In epidemics of mumps and bacterial meningitis, hundreds more suffered and some died.
    The claim that whooping cough vaccine, not whooping cough itself, causes permanent brain damage is just plain wrong. But the scare about the vaccine in England in 1973 led to the immunisation rate falling from 79 per cent in 1972 to 31 per cent in 1977. Subsequently, 100,000 children got whooping cough and 600 died.
    By 1976, the USA had only 1,010 cases of whooping cough, the lowest number ever reported. But in 2010 California suffered the largest and deadliest outbreak in more than fifty years. 9,000 people were diagnosed with the disease, and ten infants died of it.
    Some alternative medicine practitioners oppose vaccination. Rudolf Steiner, for instance, wrote absurdly that vaccination ‘interferes with karmic development and the cycles of reincarnation’.
    Contrary to the deniers, vaccines are tested for safety in larger numbers of people for longer periods than any drug. Vaccines do not have a high rate of serious side effects. Vaccines don’t contain dangerous quantities of dangerous ingredients. Vaccines prevent some very serious illnesses.
    Dr Offit urges US states to end health laws that allow religious exemptions even for lifesaving medicines (and for vaccines), which exist in all US states but three.
    It is often claimed, by, ironically, well-funded advocacy groups backed by very rich personal-injury lawyers, that big pharma engages in illicit marketing practices for vaccines. But there is no example of this.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2014

    Dear Dr. Offit: You speak of the "terrible" outbreak o

    Dear Dr. Offit: You speak of the "terrible" outbreak of pertussis in California in 2010 which was entirely preventable. I will refer you to the investigation posted by the Digital Journal on April 18, 2012, titled "Study: Whooping cough outbreak liked to Vaccinated children." The study, led by infectious disease specialist Dr. David Witt, was initiated by Kaiser Permanente in 2010. After examining the records of juvenile whooping cough patients over an 8 month period, the doctors discovered that 81 percent of patients had the full series of whooping cough shots, and 11 percent of patients had received some of the shots. Only 8 percent had not received any immunization for whooping cough. "What was very surprising was the majority of cases were in fully vaccinated children," Witt said. "That's what started catching our attention." According to The New York Times, vaccination rates remained steady (in California) as cases of whooping cough skyrocketed in the state.


    In regard to your objectivity, how does your making millions of dollars each year from Merck and your own vaccine patents qualify you to be an unbiased reporter of truth.

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