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

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

by Paul A. Offit

Paperback(First Trade Paper Edition)

$14.19 $16.99 Save 16% Current price is $14.19, Original price is $16.99. You Save 16%.
View All Available Formats & Editions


“Some will never encounter the very best antidote to vaccine-related misinformation: the writings of vaccinologist Paul Offit. No one is better at reducing anti-vaccine claims to intellectual rubble.”—Chris Mooney, New Scientist

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465029624
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 04/03/2012
Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Paul A. Offit, MD, is the chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. A professor of vaccinology and pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the author of several books, he lives in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.

Table of Contents

Prologue ix

Introduction xi

1 The Birth of Fear 1

2 This England 13

3 A Crude Brew 25

4 Roulette Redux 45

5 Make the Angels Weep 57

6 Justice 85

7 Past Is Prologue 105

8 Tragedy of the Commons 127

9 The Mean Season 149

10 Dr. Bob 171

11 Trust 191

Epilogue 207

Notes 215

Selected Bibliography 255

Acknowledgments 257

Index 259

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
dsimons More than 1 year ago
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.
Jthierer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have been worried for some time about the growing influence of Jenny McCarthy and her "safe" vaccine movement. As the sister of a child with autism, I understand how frightening and frustrating autism can be. However, I am equally frightened that unfounded claims and junk science are being used to promote putting the lives of children and adults in danger. In "Deadly Choices," Paul Offit offers a smart, but not condescending rebuttal to people who advocate non-vaccination. Offit takes the reader through the history of the anti-vaccine movement in the U.S. and Britain, then smartly explains how the science does not support the idea that vaccines are anything but safe for the vast majority of children and adults. Offit's book is a short read, and he packs in a lot of information. Thankfully, though his tone is readable and engagaing, so the book does not become overly dense. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants the other side of the story when it comes to vaccine safety, but especially to parents who are wondering about whether to vaccinate.
LizPhoto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was a great read. I've been interested in the whole vaccine vs. anti-vaccine movement for a while and this book feed my need. Dr. Paul Offit is pro-vaccine but he discuss both sides of the vaccine argument with great historical and medical accuracy. Considering that smallpox, measles,mumps and pertussis is on the rise again all over the world, I can't understand why a parent would not want to protect their child. There is danger in everything you do on a daily basis and side effects of medicine/vaccines are certainly to be considered but nothing comes without a price. "Deadly Choices" might be a small book but it is packed with a great deal of information on everything vaccine related.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Challenging the fiery and emotional voices that bash vaccines, Dr. Paul Offit presents a refreshingly evidence-based examination of the anti-vaccine movement through a detailed dissection of its common misconceptions coupled with logical counterarguments. Offit begins with the birth of the movement and how it erupted into an epidemic of fear and distrust in medical professionals. He also reveals the hypocritical nature of prominent anti-vaccine figures like Barbara Loe Fisher and Jenny McCarthy. These women created a culture of skepticism by criticizing people in positions of power, such as physicians and pharmaceuticals, for misleading the public and valuing their own monetary profits. Yet, they prove to be no different, using their connections to broadcast their misinformed opinions (not facts!) about vaccines to a larger audience. Offit will leave you shocked by how easily swayed the public is by anecdotal data and loud voices in the media. At first glance, films like “Vaccine Roulette” may seem credible, citing doctors and FDA employees. However, upon further analysis, it is revealed that her sources have “enormous disdain for his profession” and did not have the credentials she claimed. Similarly, celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey are guilty of using their platforms to assume causation from correlation, spreading stories that often lack scientific evidence and reputable clinical studies. Nevertheless, the general public often does not question people who claim that vaccines have anti-free and can cause autism. Why? Well, that’s the power of anecdotes and people who advocate with their hearts rather than with their brains. Offit does not fail to highlight positive influencers in the vaccine movement, including John Salamone, who used science to help make the switch from Sabin’s oral vaccine to Salk’s inactivated polio vaccine. Although Offit’s solutions to the problem are slightly vague and lack specific action plans, his book must be widely spread to better inform the public about vaccines and the harmful societal implications of breaking down herd immunity through anti-vaccination.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Deadly Choices by Dr. Paul Offit was a page turner that I could not put down. Dr. Offit provides an incredibly insightful take on the anti-vaccine movement that has seemingly swept the nation by storm. Topics in public health ranging from the growing importance of vaccinating children against preventable diseases to the misinformation of the anti-vaccine movement are covered extensively. Dr. Offit raises ethical questions regarding parental obligation to vaccinate as well as those surrounding vaccine exemptions. This is a meticulously research booked with compelling writing that separates fact from fiction. Dr. Offit is sensible and straightforward. Although he is not hesitant to sugar coat issues regarding vaccination, Dr. Offit is precise and eloquent in trying to educate those who are skeptical. By debunking myths that the most famous anti-vaccine advocates and even medical professionals use to misinform the public, Dr. Offit is able to offer a more holistic and scientifically accurate view of viruses and vaccines. Rather than being a pamphlet on vaccine effectiveness, Dr. Offit’s book offers an analysis of every argument related to vaccines and their use. He offers accounts in history of anti-vaccine sentiments and movements and dissects them using logic and in a reader-friendly manner. He opens the book by stating that there is good news and bad news regarding viruses. Specifically, since the inception of the modern anti-vaccine movement, the media, which has played a significant role in driving it, has become more responsible. By revisiting and analyzing the change and continuity of anti-vaccine movements throughout history, Dr. Offit is able to not only paint a more humanized picture of the CDC and those behind vaccines, but also invoke a sense of shock, reason and obligation into readers. Deadly Choices is a must-read for all, even for those who may be skeptical of the arguments from either side.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In Deadly Choices, Paul Offit offers incisive, compelling arguments against the anti-vaccine movement with reams of evidence from experts in the field. His book thoroughly investigates the history of the anti-vaccine movement, how it gained traction and credibility in the public eye, and the repercussions of this movement for public safety, parents, and children. From the public airing of DPT: Vaccine Roulette in 1982 to recent anti-vaccine campaigns endorsed by Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey, Offit explains how the media has fueled the anti-vaccine movement and how celebrities and parents have gained more credibility in the public eye than scientists or doctors. Rather than launch a one-sided attack against it, Offit truly seeks to understand the anti-vaccine movement down to its deepest roots. Reading his book gave me a much deeper understanding of why diseases once widely prevented by vaccines have reemerged in often affluent neighborhoods. He elucidates how key figures in the movement have utilized pathos, using powerful images of sick, “vaccine-damaged” children to appeal to concerned parents, and ethos, portraying scientists and researchers as selfish and deceptive and pitting them against ostensibly concerned parents devastated by the effects of vaccines on their children. Offit also appeals to the audience’s emotions by highlighting the dangers of not vaccinating children, providing stories of vulnerable children who contracted a terrible disease or even died because their parents, or the parents of another child, made the decision not to vaccinate them. He also appeals to ethos, using hard, indisputable evidence from well-known and highly-esteemed scientists and destroying the credibility of many anti-vaccine activists without expertise in any scientific field often working off of false data or no data at all. Ultimately, his book provides a powerful testament to the danger of the anti-vaccine movement in a fascinating, engaging, and sometimes even humorous way. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of the anti-vaccine movement, parents worried about the potential risks of vaccination, or anyone interested in comprehensible, intelligent, and incisive scientific literature.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Paul Offit presents an incredible version of the anti-vaccine discussion. While Offit clearly has a firm opinion that everyone should be vaccinated, I appreciate that he still thoroughly researched and discussed both sides of the argument. Amid the scientific and political details, Offit artfully weaves in personal stories of families and parents who are both in support of and against the anti-vaccine movement. My one complaint is that the writing did at times feel repetitive and lengthy. However, after finishing the book it was apparent that each individual story was carefully selected to support Offit’s viewpoint on the anti-vaccine movement. I highly recommend this engaging read for anyone who is a soon-to-be parent, a student studying public health, and everything in between!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
willyvan More than 1 year ago
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.