Book Club: On Immunity

Alt: A doodle holds a copy of “On Immunity” by Eula Biss and exchanges a thumbs-up with another doodle.

Today, dear readers, we’d like to bring to your attention a fascinating book that investigates vaccines and the fears that make some people hesitant to get them.

Part memoir, part historical and cultural study, On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss documents the author’s decision-making process as she considers whether to get the recommended vaccines for her newborn son. After asking other new moms for advice, Biss learns just how nervous many of them are about vaccines. So, she examines these anxieties — including the harmful myth that vaccines cause autism — and asks why some fears persist even when they’re proven untrue.

Biss takes a closer look at the blind spots in the anti-vaccine movement. She compares a spreading disease to a vampire to remind readers how powerful fear can be. But people who fear vaccines so much, she explains, often forget about the danger of the diseases they prevent. We can all carry and spread diseases — so our own bodies can be as dangerous and scary as any monster.

To address the fears surrounding vaccines, Biss offers an appeal to public well-being. If our bodies can be dangerous, she says, they can also be protective. When we get vaccines, we act as shields, protecting others who can’t get vaccinated. And she isn’t merely being philosophical — she’s talking about herd immunity! (Just don’t call it that in your plain language materials.)

Biss ultimately chooses to get her son the recommended vaccines — and she says that she’s not just doing it for her own family’s safety, but for everyone’s. Now that’s the kind of thinking we ❤.

The bottom line: Check out On Immunity for an exploration of how to rethink the fears that surround vaccines.

Tweet about it: With #COVID19 vaccine development underway, @CommunicateHlth’s We ❤ #HealthLit Book Club revisits “On Immunity: An Inoculation” by Eula Biss: #communicateCOVID


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