Book Club: On Immunity

Today, dear readers, we’d like to bring to your attention a fascinating book that investigates vaccines and the fears some people have about 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 her newborn son vaccinated as recommended. 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 false claim that vaccines cause autism — and asks why some fears persist even when they’re proven untrue.

To understand the anti-vaccine movement, Biss starts by taking a closer look at it. People who fear vaccines so much, she explains, forget about the danger of the diseases they prevent. But because we can all carry and spread diseases, she points out, even our own bodies can be dangerous and scary.

Biss gets creative with metaphors. By comparing a spreading disease to a vampire, she reminds readers how powerful fear can be. As health communicators, we couldn’t agree more. We know it can be tough to advocate for a behavior when negative messaging surrounds it.

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 vaccinated, 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 is 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: The We ❤ #HealthLit Book Club reviews “On Immunity: An Inoculation” by Eula Biss: https://bit.ly/2Gmbeg8 via @CommunicateHlth