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

Posted Jan 04 2011 3:28am

I mentioned in a previous post that I was reading Deadly Choices and used it as the basis for a post on how much of a myth the idea of there being ‘mild’ diseases is.

I’ve (literally) just finished reading the book so I want to give it a review. I should be clear up front, I liked the book very much and I like Paul Offit too so you’re not going to find much negativity here.

The book is a clear and coherent look back at the roots of the modern anti-vaccine movement (mostly in the US but we get a sadly necessary large mention too), its leading proponents and figures. It also swings up to the modern day and looks at the contemporary anti-vaxxers such as Jenny McCarthy etc.

Sadly (from my point of view) it makes the role of modern day anti-vaccinationism clear: its mainly due to the confluence of vaccines and autism that has given rise to a politically motivated type of anti-vaxxer. To give examples we’re all familiar with its like when an out n out anti-vaxxer like the owner of the website whale.to became friends with the leaders of Generation Rescue that the initial overlap first occurred – first they borrowed material from each other then they become supporters of each other and now they follow the common goal of destroying the vaccine program in the West. That might sound a little over the top but its nonetheless true. Ask any anti-vaxxer what their goal is and that goal will be the eradication of vaccines.

Offit’s book is also a study of some of the incidents where vaccines have been at fault and details how these rare occurrences are used to chronicle the side effects of vaccines and direct future safety testing. The first few chapters of the book make it clear just how important some of these tragic incidents have been to today’s safety testing. Another upcoming book that tackles this subject is Seth Monookin’s The Panic Virus and of course Offit’s own book The Cutter Incident details one such incident in great detail.

According to Offit himself:

I wrote this book for children; Deadly Choices is an attempt to stand up for them. A child’s vaccination decisions are made by his or her parents. If an adult chooses not to be vaccinated from Hepatitis B and she dies, that was her own choice to not be vaccinated. What bothers me is that children aren’t making that choice. Who represents the children?

And he’s absolutely right. In the same vein, whilst Deadly Choices is not an autism book per se, it should be the responsibility of the autism community to spread its message far and wide, partly because its the right thing to do and partly because its the modern day autism community that has spearheaded and led the contemporary anti-vaccine message. We have some wrongs to right.

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