I was really interested to read this, partly because Heidi J. Larson’s position at LSHTM (where I now study) caught my eye. Hey, I’ve picked books for worse reasons, and the issue this book is trying to dissect is really, really important — and something I might perhaps be interested in working on someday in terms of trying to reconcile people to vaccines.
Anyway, the gist of the argument is that scientists and government officials aren’t listening to the concerns of people who are worried about vaccination. At the same time, it points out that when governments have listened to such concerns and paused vaccination schemes, it’s legitimised that view — often again years of studies — and resulted in even more people losing their trust in vaccines. It pings around between those points a bit and comes to no conclusions.
There’s no additional wisdom here: Larson never manages to get beyond “people feel their [fictional, unscientific, ungrounded in fact] concerns about vaccines should be listened to and investigated very carefully, and they’re mad that governments aren’t doing so… but it’s also bad when governments do so.” Thanks, I figured that out. Somehow governments/health officials need to listen to people with concerns and made them feel valid, without actually making those concerns sound valid.
I get that it’s a difficult subject, but this book — short though it is — takes too long to tell me nothing I didn’t already know. If you’ve never thought about why vaccine refusal happens, and never tried to dig into the consequences, then this book will be useful, though.