Get Your Shots

On Immunity: An Inoculation

By Eula Biss

It seems pretty clear to me and probably you why we should get vaccinated, vaccinate our children, and encourage those we care about to follow suit. Biss presents a literate and intelligent case for vaccination; that is, self protection and the protection of those around us, even those far afield. However, some would not agree. They see vaccination as invasive and as a transmitter of disease.

Biss’s book has value on two scores. First, it educates you on the history of vaccination, and gives you an idea of what life was like before we began developing ways to protect ourselves. Any of us alive in the 40s and the 50s only has to cast back to the summers of terror when polio, now virtually eliminated, scourged us; people lived in fear of paralysis and the iron lung. The book also shows how inquisitive and brave individuals discovered and developed vaccination, often in the face of fear and opposition.

But, then, if vaccinating against diseases that wiped out populations of our forebears is good, why do some people see it as bad? And why do even those who believe in the benefits of vaccination sometimes suffer pause?

That’s the second value of Biss’s book: helping us understand the gray areas of vaccination–of most any endeavor, when you think about it–and how these can give rise to doubt. She employs Dracula as a metaphor for the injection of evil into us. After all, things can and do go wrong, as we’ve witnessed on many occasions. While rejection of tested methods seems silly and, more important, dangerous, complete and blind acceptance isn’t always best either.

Biss helps you understand the history of vaccination, why it frightens some people, and helps you understand that nothing is absolutely certain, not even scientifically tested and endorsed methods. On balance, however, it’s the best chance we have for leading longer and more productive lives, something that history has clearly demonstrated. So, make sure you and your loved ones get your shots. w/c

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