Offit (Vaccinology and Pediatrics/Univ. of Pennsylvania; Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure, 2008, etc.) takes aim at the anti-vaccine movement in America and scores a bull's-eye.
If only people would listen. Unfortunately, it's often a case of irrational behavior fueled by hostility toward doctors, researchers, drug companies and government. The issue comes down to coincidence vs. causality. A baby is vaccinated and thereafter develops seizures, brain damage, autism or other disorders. So powerful is the need to find a cause that vaccines become the target and no amount of clinical or epidemiological evidence will change opinions. Abetting belief are the activists and celebrities who champion the cause on the nightly news or on their own inflammatory blogs. What Offit offers in response is a well-documented history dating back to the first vaccine for smallpox. That, too, occasioned widespread attack once vaccination was made compulsory, with protesters even claiming that children would develop little cows at the inoculation site (because the vaccine is based on the cowpox virus. The author traces recent anti-vaccine activism in America to the 1982 documentaryDPT: Vaccination Roulette, which inveighed against the pertussis part of the DPT regimen (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus). In spite of exonerating evidence, negative publicity and lawsuits drove drug companies out of the vaccine business and led to the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act. But the battle was renewed with the association between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine or its mercury component. Now that vaccine is mercury-free, and countless studies have discounted any association, but the protests mount, with many states allowing parents to opt out of vaccine programs. The danger is that with too many kids unvaccinated, herd immunity is lost and epidemics become a reality. Offit rightly points out that it would be a mistake to go this route to demonstrate why vaccines are essential; what we need is a restoration of trust. He suggests that this could happen if concerned parents and public health workers who have seen the devastation wrought by childhood disease speak out.
A much-needed book with solid evidence—deserves all the publicity it can get.
Booklist (starred review)
“Infectious disease expert Offit, long an outspoken and prolific champion of universal immunization via vaccines, ratchets up the urgency of his crusade by taking on the loudest and highest-profile spokespersons for the anti-vaccine movement.... Armed with his own arsenal of anecdotal horror stories that focus on worst case histories of the unvaccinated, mostly children, in addition to pages of scientific study citations supporting his premise, Offit pulls no punches. His tone is edgier than usual this time, his arguments more virulent. It is clear that he wants his message and the facts, not rumors or infectious diseases, to go viral.”
“In a meticulously researched tour de force, Offit exposes the lack of science underlying the claims of the anti-vaccine movement.... In 2009 and 2010, U.S. courts ruled against claims linking autism with vaccines. Still, many vaccine opponents aren't persuaded, and they have talk show access and Hollywood friends. To level the playing field, every doctor's office should have a copy of Offit's book, giving parents the other side of the story.”
is a rare combination of scientist, doctor, communicator and advocate. In Deadly Choices, he powerfully lays out the history of vaccinations and their net benefit to society today.”
Perri Klass, Professor of Journalism and Pediatrics, New York University; author of Treatment Kind and Fair
“Deadly Choices carries a very important message for parents, journalists, physicians, and everyone who cares about children and health. It is a passionate, but also compassionate, call for civil discourse and rational conversation on a subject which matters so much to each of us individually and to us all as a society. It is a fascinating account of society and science, politics, publicity, and public health.”
David Oshinsky, Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin; author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Polio: An American Story
“A medical crisis has come to America. Diseases of our grandparents' generation are making a deadly comeback as more and more parents choose not to vaccinate their children. How did this happen? Who is responsible? And what can be done to reverse this unconscionable assault upon our nation's public health? For the answers, provided in clear, common sense, page-turning fashion, I recommend Deadly Choices by Dr. Paul Offit a timely and courageous call to arms by the nation's foremost expert on pediatric infectious disease.”
Steven Novella, Assistant Professor and Director of General Neurology, Yale University School of Medicine
“Dr. Offit brings to life in careful and compelling detail the story of misguided and dangerous activists using bad science to attack one of the most effective public health interventions ever devised. It is a must-read cautionary tale of the abuse of celebrity, the media, misinformation and fear.”
Chris Mooney, author of Unscientific America
“Paul Offit is that rarity: An eloquent, outspoken scientist with a gift for writing narrative. I cannot imagine a better counter to the scientifically challenged and just plain dangerous anti-vaccination movement. We're fortunate to have him.”
Kirkus (starred review)
“Offit takes aim at the anti-vaccine movement in America and scores a bull's-eye.... A much-needed book with solid evidence deserves all the publicity it can get.”
Michael Specter, Staff Writer, The New Yorker; author of Denialism
“With Deadly Choices, Paul Offit has once again brought clarity and reason to a subject that desperately needs them both. If you care about the health of your children or the health of anybody's children you need to read this book as soon as you can.”
Robert M. Goldberg, Ph.D., Vice President, Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and author of Tabloid Medicine: How the Internet is Being Used to Hijack Medical Science for Fear and Profit
“This is a courageous book by a courageous researcher and physician. Paul Offit's new book tells the truth about the anti-vaccine movement, its unquestioning followers in the media and about the deadly consequences of their campaign of fear. Deadly Choices demonstrates that the enemies of immunizations are successful because too many of us have remained silent in the face of their falsehoods and intimidation. Dr. Offit shows that by standing up for science we can win the war against those who would leave our children defenseless against infectious disease.”