book review

Book Review: On Immunity by Eula Biss

I want you to think about a time when you had a really bad headache.

A headache so bad that you couldn’t get out of bed and you truly felt that your head was going to explode.
Now take that headache and put the pressure on the inside of your skull, in the lining of your brain. That it is swollen and pushing out against your skull. That any minute you feel like your head is going to crack and you cry, no not cry, that’s too light of a word, sob, from the pain.
You are dizzy and your muscles are stiff. You don’t eat because you feel sick. Light makes the ache worsen and if left long enough, because of complications, you could die.  This is what it is like to have meningitis. I know this because at seventeen I was diagnosed with it.
I spent weeks on heavy pain killers, and then weeks for my body to withdraw from them. I can’t remember two weeks of my life because I was so sedated for the pain I was in.
When reading On Immunity: An Inoculation, by Eula Biss, it gave me a another view of the world of inoculations. When I was a child there was no vaccine for this. I had my other routine shots at the times that were scheduled. Shortly after I recovered, they did put out a vaccine for it. I got the shot. No one should ever be in that kind of pain.

As a parent we have every right to do what we believe is right for our child.


I don’t believe that there is a right or wrong in this case, I believe that it is a choice, but one which needs to be educated, and well thought out for our children and not what might happen, or fads. Children have gotten sick and died from vaccinations and on the opposite end, children have died because of a disease that the vaccinations could have prevented.
But as a parent, I vaccinated my children. With my experience I believe that it was the right thing to do for my children.
All this being said, I think that that no one is going to win the argument.
The debate was fired up even further with, what could only be called, a rant, by Jennifer Hibben-White, when her child was exposed to a gentleman who had the measles in a doctor’s waiting room.
Days later, another mother took to the media to expose that Mrs. Hibben-White’s grandfather as a principle stock holder in a big pharmaceutical company. Pushing the theory that the baby may have been indeed exposed to measles by the gentleman in question, but his vaccination had failed. And even being so bold as calling foul as a publicity stunt to sell more vaccinations.
The author has used mythology to paint the picture of thousands of years of inoculation. Back to the myth of Achilles. She does go over all renditions of the myth, however the one that I remembered from high school English was when Achilles’ mother held him by the heal and dipped him the River Styx. Making him invincible except the spot which did not get bathed in the water. This is where the term “Achilles heel” comes from.
Communication Quote
This was part of the problem

More non fiction books like this need to come out, and soon. It’s very well written and researched, and you feel like she is telling you a story over coffee, and not a non-fiction book about vaccinations and the fear around them. Where people will use media, or more specifically social media, as a platform to create an immediate response, this book steps back and draws on past and present to draw her conclusion.  It encourages us to communicate with one another.

I agree for all the reasons that the author talked about in the book, that my children should be vaccinated.  And you noticed I said “my” children.  As they are young, it is my job to learn, to educate myself and to make healthy choices for them.
I respect people’s decisions on how they raise their children. That being said, I would like the same respect extended to me. I have had countless parents give me “advice” on how to raise my children. If I don’t agree that I will do what they suggest (I normally thank them for their ideas but I will decide in the end what I will do), the parents get quite angry.
I even had a parent be so rude as to then turn to another parent that was close by, and talk to them about the nerve that I had. I was still sitting nearby.
The debate over vaccinations is almost as heated and sometimes as vicious as the debate on whether to breast feed. Again, another parenting debate that both sides have taken up in battle with the lines drawn in the sand.
In the end it doesn’t matter what we choose, to vaccinate or not to vaccinate, childrens’ well being is still a gamble. Vaccinations can fail, children and adults alike can get sick. It’s what we decide that is best, and as adults, live with the outcomes of our choices.