A fascinating account of vaccination's miraculous, inflammatory past and its uncertain future. In 1796, as smallpox ravaged Europe, Edward Jenner injected a child with a benign version of the disease, then exposed the child to the deadly virus itself. The boy proved resistant to smallpox, and Jenner's risky experiment produced the earliest vaccination. In this deftly written account, journalist Arthur Allen reveals a history of vaccination that is both illuminated with hope and shrouded by controversyfrom Jenner's discovery to Pasteur's vaccines for rabies and cholera, to those that safeguarded the children of the twentieth century, and finally to the tumult currently surrounding vaccination. Faced with threats from anthrax to AIDS, we are a vulnerable population and can no longer depend on vaccines; numerous studies have linked childhood vaccination with various neurological disorders, and our pharmaceutical companies are more attracted to the profits of treatment than to the prevention of disease. With narrative grace and investigative journalism, Allen explores our shifting understanding of vaccination since its creation. 16 pages of illustrations.
ARTHUR ALLEN is a Washington-based journalist who has written on aspects of this subject in The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, the Washington Post, The Atlantic and Salon.