Flu Season: Will You Vaccinate?

Little baby get an injection
What are you afraid of?

Flu season has arrived, and this means deciding to give (or not give) their kids the flu shot. A shot; the very nature of the word suggests violence. That we’re inflicting some kind of violence on our children to keep them healthy. This, it seems, is at the root of the fears surrounding vaccination. The fear that we may be harming our children in a desperate effort to protect them.

On Immunity, by essayist Eula Biss deals with the fears surrounding vaccination, illness, and otherness. It’s not quite the anti- or pro-vaccination diatribe you might expect from a book on such a hot-button issue. It doesn’t concern itself with the rising “anti-vaccination movement,” but rather, deals with motherhood.

Biss, herself is a mother. She relates the issues at hand to her own experience with her young son, providing anecdotes about his first serious illness, her own struggle with the decision to vaccinate, and even the visceral story of his birth. Combining these personal accounts with deep research on topics as disparate as herd immunity, chemical exposure, even vampires, Biss puts forth a heartfelt, smart, and fundamentally human story about her need to protect her son. Caught up in the mix are meditations on otherness, isolationism, mass panic, and of course, what it means to be a mother.

No matter what side of the debate you are on, if you’re a mother (and even if you’re not), On Immunity is a fascinating, thought-provoking read that runs parallel to the sensationalist news coverage. Even Bill Gates was impressed.

On Immunity deals with the stigma surrounding disease and vaccination in a way I had previously never seen. Even if it doesn’t change your mind, it’s likely to get you to empathize with both ends of the argument surrounding the decision to vaccinate. Go check it out, and let me know what you think.

Links for further reading:

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