Allen, Arthur 1959-
Allen, Arthur 1959-
Born 1959. Education: Graduate of University of California, Berkeley.
Journalist; served as a foreign correspondent in El Salvador, Mexico, France, and Germany.
Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine's Greatest Lifesaver, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals and Web sites, including the New York Times, Washington Post, New Republic, Mother Jones, Atlantic Monthly, Salon.com, and Slate. Editor of two book-length collections of investigative journalism on water privatization and Latin American military affairs.
Arthur Allen is an investigative journalist whose studies of biology led to his science writing. Allen's Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine's Greatest Lifesaver is a history of vaccination, beginning with its first use by Edward Jenner, who initiated the eradication of smallpox in the eighteenth century, as well as an investigation of issues related to vaccine production and use. In particular, Allen studies how low profit margins threaten the development of future vaccines, the effectiveness of vaccines, and their sometimes negative side effects. The latter includes a suspected link between the preservative thimerosal, used in childhood vaccines, and autism. Also noted are how the dangers of the whooping cough vaccine undermined public confidence in vaccines, the cases of the neurological disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome reported in patients who received the swine flu vaccine during the 1970s outbreak, and how the rubella vaccine became a factor in the abortion debate.
Scientists who devoted their lives to the development of preventative vaccines include rivals Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin, both of whom spent years fighting polio using individual methods. Allen credits them and describes government programs that provided vaccinations to protect children from diphtheria, typhoid fever, yellow fever, and polio. Allen comments on the contemporary debate over the vaccination of young girls to combat the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer. Because of past problems with various vaccines, many parents have come to suspect vaccination programs and are choosing not to submit their children to them. This has resulted in more children becoming susceptible to diseases, some of which, like measles, are on the rise.
Library Journal contributor Kathy Arsenault described the book as a "compelling narrative of the vaccine's undoubted triumphs and troubling challenges."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2006, Donna Chavez, review of Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine's Greatest Lifesaver, p. 12.
Columbia Journalism Review, January-February, 2007, Rebecca Skloot, review of Vaccine, p. 59.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2006, review of Vaccine, p. 997.
Library Journal, November 15, 2006, Kathy Arsenault, review of Vaccine, p. 87.
Publishers Weekly, October 9, 2006, review of Vaccine, p. 46.
Science News, February 3, 2007, review of Vaccine, p. 79.
SciTech Book News, March, 2007, review of Vaccine. Washington Post Book World, February 11, 2007, Laurie Garrett, review of Vaccine, p. 6.
Arthur Allen Home Page,http://www.vaccinecontroversy.com (April 10, 2007).
Post & Courier Online (Charleston, SC), http://www.charleston.net/ (March 4, 2007), Victoria Hood, review of Vaccine.