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Vaccines: History, Science, and Issues. By Tish Davidson. The Story of a Drug. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwoood, 2017. 259 pages. Acid free $60 (ISBN 978-1-4408-4443-0). E-book available (978-1-4408-4444-7), call for pricing.

Vaccines and vaccination in the United States have become topics of dispute in some circles in the last two decades, since Andrew Wakefield published a high-profile and now thoroughly discredited study in Lancet linking vaccines to autism disorder. Tish Davidson’s book, Vaccines: History, Science, and Issues, takes a look at the history of vaccines and vaccinations, their mechanism of action, potential side effects, and development and use. She also documents the anti-vaccine (anti-vaxxer) movement, which began in the eighteenth century and has found renewed adherents in the present day. Davidson’s research is scientific, meticulous, and dispassionate in its coverage of both vaccine proponents and detractors.

Davidson writes in a clear, nontechnical language that is easily comprehensible by most general readers. Her chapter on how vaccines work, in particular, is a very accessible written account of the science behind immunity and the immune system and how vaccines marshal our own defenses to “remember” pathogens and react to them before illness takes hold. Other chapters dealing with side effects, risks, and the production and regulation of vaccines are equally well written and valuable to the nontechnical reader.

The final two chapters on the social dimensions of vaccines and future developments discuss the modern-day objection to vaccines, the Wakefield controversy, and the anti-vaccination movement, as well as the development of new vaccines on the horizon. Davidson is very good at representing each side of the vaccination argument in an even, measured way that describes the antipathy anti-vaxxers have to vaccinations and the scientific and medical response to those concerns. Although hard core adherents to either side may be frustrated by the neutral position she takes (n.b.: the writer of this review is very much Team Vaccination), her measured stance allows for understanding, if not agreeing with, what the other side believes to be true. A glossary, bibliography, and directory of resources round out the volume.

There are a number of excellent books on vaccines and the vaccine controversy, including ABC-CLIO’s Vaccination Controversies by David E. Newton (2013) and Eula Biss’s sublime On Immunity (Greywolf, 2014). However, the excellent and clear writing style and neutral tone of this volume make it an excellent choice for high school and college students and general readers interested in exploring vaccines and their detractors.—Amanda Sprochi, Health Sciences Cataloger, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri

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