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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Stuart M. Krassner, PhD (University of California Irvine)
Description: Edward Jenner's pioneering efforts in the use of cowpox vaccination to prevent smallpox ultimately led to the eradication of smallpox in 1979. With the eradication of smallpox over 30 years ago, most people today have little understanding of the horrors wreaked upon humanity by smallpox and what it took to successfully eliminate this devastating disease.
Purpose: The purpose is to tell how a simple country doctor was inspired to develop vaccination as the way to prevent smallpox and tells how the method was adapted to eradicate this disease. Given our current problems in dealing with infectious diseases, it is a timely work.
Audience: Written in a concise, non-technical style by a respected immunologist, both the general public and health professionals will find this a fascinating book.
Features: Jenner's vaccination method did not have the drawbacks of the older smallpox preventive measure, variolation (inoculation with smallpox from an infected person), which posed a high risk of infection and death and could spread to non-immune people in close contact with a recently variolated individual. The illustrations in the inserts include some graphic depictions of the dreadful effect of smallpox upon its victims. Jenner's life is detailed, including the struggle to win recognition for his method of preventing smallpox and its surprisingly rapid worldwide acceptance. The author deals very clearly with the ethical issue posed by Jenner's use of young James Phipps as an experimental subject. He argues persuasively for the destruction of the two remaining stores of the virus by pointing out that Vaccinia virus, which does not cause disease in humans, serves perfectly well as a vaccine source against smallpox. There is a useful glossary and detailed references.
Assessment: Although there are older books about the eradication of smallpox, they are generally out of print and are not as personal and succinct as this work.