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234 × 156 mm
288 pages
17 Jul 2017

Immunization How Vaccines Became Controversial Stuart Blume

Vaccines have helped mankind to tackle the dire threat of infectious disease for more than a hundred years. They have become key tools of public health and scientists are charged with developing them as quickly as possible to combat the emergence of new diseases such as Zika, SARS and Ebola. But why are growing numbers of parents all over the world now questioning the wisdom of having their children vaccinated? Why have public-sector vaccine producers been sold off? And can we trust the multinational corporations that increasingly dominate vaccine development and production?

In this controversial new book, Stuart Blume argues that the processes of globalization and people’s unsatisfied healthcare needs are eroding faith in the institutions producing and providing vaccines. He tells the history of immunization practices, from the work of early pioneers such as Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch to the establishment of the World Health Organization and the introduction of genetic engineering.

Immunization exposes the limits of public health authorities while suggesting how they can restore our confidence. Public health experts and all those considering vaccinations should read this timely history.

‘a fascinating history of vaccination and its troubles’ – Times Higher Education

‘Blume grapples with the hot-button topic of immunization programs and public resistance to them in this persuasive, challenging chronicle of how vaccines improved human health – and the pharmaceutical industry’s bottom line . . . Blume’s crucial history illustrates that vaccines have saved countless lives, but they must win the confidence of those who don’t recognize their universal benefit.’ – Publishers Weekly ‘starred review’

‘In his thought-provoking book, Stuart Blume carefully explains how exactly vaccines protect the human body, before going on to explore the worrying phenomenon that has come to be dubbed “vaccine hesitancy” – the reluctance of some parents to have their children vaccinated.’ – Prospect

‘IFrom vaccine hesitancy to virulent anti-vaccine views, parents are questioning what used to be considered a triumph of public health – vaccines. As so often happens with debates on controversial issues, emotion often trumps information . . . [Immunization] offer[s] refreshingly fact-based alternatives to the vitriol dominating the current conversation on vaccines . . . From Cold War politics to neoliberal economics, Blume puts policy and advancement into a broader context in which public health sometimes takes a back seat to other, less noble concerns. His central argument, articulated in the final chapter, is that vaccine hesitancy is rooted in mistrust of the institutions that promote them – especially governments and pharmaceutical companies . . . Readers who wish to be informed of the current debate and issues surrounding it will appreciate the clear, fact-based approach.’ – Library Journal

‘This is an important, comprehensive and path-breaking book. Eschewing simplistic, unipolar notions of the planning and delivery of international health, it places the history and contemporary provision of immunization on a truly global scale. This is a study that looks at all facets of a complex subject, where the troubled birth and expansion of the use of vaccines is examined thoroughly and fairly. This is scholarship at its richest, which reminds us all about the dangers of technological determinism in all matters of public health. A must read for academic, government and international health agency audiences, especially those committed to the equitable introduction of vaccines around the world on the basis of careful and transparent consultations with target societies.’ –  Sanjoy Bhattacharya, Professor of History of Medicine and Director of the Centre for Global Health Histories, University of York and Head, WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Health Histories.

‘Stuart Blume’s Immunization: How Vaccines Became Controversial is a clearly written, brilliant and highly sophisticated look at the roots of the growing phenomenon of “vaccine hesitancy”. He rejects the dominant, and superficial interpretation by public health officials of what is going on, and shows the reader what insights occur when you really stop and listen to what people are saying rather than assuming you already know what motivates them and pigeon-holing their supposed views  into various unflattering categories.’ – Professor William Muraskin, Queens College, City University of New York

Immunization: How Vaccines Became Controversial provides great insight into the vaccination issue precisely because it avoids the easy generalisations made by partisans on either side. Blume more usefully points to the complexities and contradictions in the history and social dynamics of vaccination. He presents vaccination as a technology, and as just one of several approaches to promoting health, and thus to be judged in a wider context than a narrow calculation of benefits and risks. Immunization is essential reading for anyone who wants to get beyond the usual polarised positions in the vaccination debate.’ – Professor Brian Martin, University of Wollongong, Australia

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Stuart Blume is Emeritus Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the University of Amsterdam. Educated at the University of Oxford, he has previously worked at the University of Sussex, the London School of Economics and in Whitehall.