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Monday, February 2, 2015

On Immunity: An Inoculation

I really adore Eula Biss, so at Book Expo this year when I saw she had a new book coming out, on vaccines no less, I ran to get an autographed copy. Like, ran through the expo. It was heaven. So here we are with On Immunity: An Inoculation

Eula Biss was about to become a new mother and she begins to wonder -- why do we vaccinate, and why is there an anti-vaccinate movement for something that seems so logical? Is there anything legitimate to their claims? Through her research into these questions, Biss examines what it is we fear and why -- not just through inoculation, but in life. She examines the history of vaccinations, references in literature, other ways that literature represents a historical fear of the unknown, and she talks with many in her life, including her oncologist father, to get down to the roots of why we vaccinate and why some are desperately fearful of the process. 

We as humans are so out of control of so much that affects our health and well being that this fear overwhelms so many, leading to people desiring to take control (when in fact, they are doing anything but) in any way possible. It's the crux of the anti-vaxxer movement -- the desire for an of illusion control. What Biss finally realized at the end of her search was that no matter how hard you try, you can't protect your child from everything. Whether it's chemicals in the crib mattress or bleach in cleaning solution at work, you can only do what you can do and then you must relinquish control.

This book was astounding, and I have been recommending it left and right. It is absolutely a call for vaccination, but in an incredibly intelligent way that may very well reach the anti-vaxxers (who happen to fit a profile of highly educated, older mothers with high income). This book is well-researched, well-reasoned, and clearly personal for Biss. She opens up about her own struggles with control over the environment in raising her son, and she even discusses a moment where she calls her husband in tears because they need to replace the mattress right away. Her conversations with her father are a light in the dark, as he is reasonable and honest with his daughter.

The last big point to come out of this book is that we are not alone, and that, contrary to the American ethos of every-man-for-himself, we are dependent upon each other for our health. Our bodies and our immune systems are dependent on every single other person around us, regardless of your beliefs in your own abilities to build yourself a robust immune system. The interconnectedness of it all was oddly comforting to me. I have always been confused by this (very American) mentality of me-me-me-me, as together we fight bigger, better, and stronger. I loved this book for addressing this mentality and exploring what that means in the realm of vaccinations.

For purchase below.

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