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Photo via Eula Biss author site/ On Immunity
Photo via Eula Biss author site/ On Immunity

Vaccines continue to be a hot topic with the measles outbreak and the Ebola virus. In his latest book review of On Immunity by Eula Biss, Bill Gates takes a close look at the origins of the fears behind vaccinations — and why they spread so quickly — and how to best address them.

“Vaccines are at once the source of both super-fast ideas and super-slow ones,” Gates writes. “Tiny injections of misinformation about vaccines often race around the globe in minutes while, in the words of Mark Twain, ‘the truth is still putting on its shoes.’ ”

Released in 2014, author Biss takes on the “chronic condition of fear” from the perspective as a new mother in On Immunity, including the “metaphors and myths surrounding our conception of immunity and its implications,” according to the Amazon description.

Photo via Eula Biss author site/ Eula Biss
Photo via Eula Biss author site/ Eula Biss

On Immunity was highly acclaimed. It was one of the New York Times top books of 2014, and a Publishers Weekly pick of the week: “Biss advocates eloquently for childhood immunization, making her case as an anxious new mother intent on protecting her son—and understanding the consequences,” reads the PW review. “Her exploration is both historical and emotional…Biss frankly and optimistically looks at our ‘unkempt’ world and our shared mission to protect one another.”

In Gates’ review, he writes: “I have new perspective on the power of those fears after reading On Immunity…A lot of people who talk about vaccines — no matter what side they’re on — don’t invest the time to understand the topic. But Biss really did her homework. Like many of us, she concludes that vaccines are safe, effective, and almost miraculous tools for protecting our children against needless suffering.”

Much like Biss’ book, which provides a thoughtful approach to the vaccine debate, Gates also advocates for a steady touch. He writes that we should not rush to condemn anti-vaxxers as “ignorant” or ‘anti-science.’ ” Instead, embracing that getting the truth about vaccines out will be a slow battle, one that will be helped by “those they know and trust—friends, family members, doctors, and teachers.”

If you are interested in the debate, it’s well worth a look.

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