Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Will a new book finally immunise public opinion — and Donald Trump — against conspiracy theories that vaccinations are dangerous for our children? The global medical and science communities are hoping so.

The Vaccine Race‚ by American science writer Meredith Wadman‚ explores the history of vaccines and‚ in particular‚ the change from using animal cells to human cells by the maverick Leonard Hayflick‚ who was like a Van Gogh of the science world.

A genius who broke new ground in the fight against diseases‚ Hayflick was initially shunned by his contemporaries until it came to light that the war against rubella and polio‚ for example‚ was won thanks to his achievements.

The book‚ which scientists say documents in excruciating detail the long history of vaccines‚ does not romanticise it in any way.

But‚ what it does show is how far the research methodology has come and the enormous effect vaccinations have had on the world.

According to the UN Children’s Fund‚ vaccinations have brought seven diseases under control‚ while the World Health Organisation says measles-related deaths have "decreased by 79% since the beginning of the century"‚ and this is primarily thanks to vaccines.

Wadman’s book‚ launched earlier in March‚ comes hot on the heels of US President Donald Trump joining the antivaxxer chorus.

He recently said in an interview: "Just the other day‚ a two-year-old‚ beautiful child went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later got a tremendous fever‚ got very‚ very sick and now is autistic." Trump allegedly told the exact story a few years ago‚ and at the time also said "just the other day".

According to Wadman‚ the antivaxxer movement places lives in peril by ignoring what history has shown us.

"I think it comes from complacency — we don’t see these diseases anymore‚ therefore we think we don’t we need to vaccinate against them‚" she said.

"[But] the reason we don’t see them is because we continue to vaccinate against them‚" she told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. We need to recover those stories to remind ourselves just how important it is to continue vaccinating our kids."

Sheena Cruickshank‚ a researcher and reviewer at The New Scientist‚ said of the book: "Detailed and discursive‚ The Vaccine Race isn’t an easy read. But among its detailed descriptions … there is plenty of ammunition for those arguing with family or Facebook friends who have swallowed the conspiracy theories of the antivaccination community."

TMG Digital

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