Maurice Hilleman's mother died a day after he was born and his twin sister stillborn. As an adult, he said that he felt he had escaped an appointment with death. He made it his life's work to see that others could do the same. Born into the life of a Montana chicken farmer, Hilleman ran off to the University of Chicago to become a microbiologist, and eventually joined Merck, the pharmaceutical company, to pursue his goal of eliminating childhood disease. Chief among his accomplishments are nine vaccines that practically every child gets, rendering formerly dread diseases—including often devastating ones such as mumps and rubella—practically toothless and nearly forgotten; his measles vaccine alone saves several million lives every year.
Vaccinated is not a biography; Hilleman's experience forms the basis for a rich and lively narrative of two hundred years of medical history, ranging across the globe and throughout time to take in a cast of hundreds, all caught up, intentionally or otherwise, in the story of vaccines. It is an inspiring and triumphant tale, but one with a cautionary aspect, as vaccines come under assault from people blaming vaccines for autism and worse. Paul Offit clearly and compellingly rebuts those arguments, and, by demonstrating how much the work of Hilleman and others has gained for humanity, shows us how much we have to lose.
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Paul A. Offit, M.D., is chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, as well as the acclaimed author of Autism's False Prophets, Vaccinated, and Deadly Choices.From Booklist:
*Starred Review* Maurice Hilleman's name isn't well known, and according to infectious disease expert Offit's riveting biography, that is both a shame and a blessing. It's a shame because the outspoken, brilliant, yet humble scientist from Montana invented vaccines that all but wiped out a number of infectious diseases. Thanks to his genius, such diseases as mumps, rubella, measles, and hepatitis A and B no longer claim millions of lives, mostly children's. He merits greater recognition. His obscurity is a blessing because it prevents more people from using his name in vain, for Hilleman's vaccines have recently become increasingly controversial and their efficacy clouded by questions about adverse side effects. Still, Offit pulls no punches in defending Hilleman against those who would crucify him for combining measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines into one shot and for the choice to add thimerosal to extend the shelf life of all vaccines. Despite the fact that Offit's bias on behalf of public health shows, the book is a powerful examination of the kind of single-minded determination it takes to tackle diseases that threaten the world's children. And to do so without bravado—no vaccine bears Hilleman's name, no awards his mantle—is to define what it is to be simply heroic. Chavez, Donna
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