Oprah’s book club choices propelled a lot of writers’ careers. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is hoping his latest book club pick propels more people to get vaccinated. The new book Zuckerberg is touting, On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss, joins his voice and others (he hopes) to the debate on whether or not to vaccinate children.
Following in the footsteps of Bill Gates, whose foundation has funded millions of vaccinations, Facebook’s Zuckerberg has loudly come out in support of vaccination with his new book club choice. “Vaccination is an important and timely topic,” Zuckerberg noted in his Facebook post announcing the choice. He explained that the book looks at why people started questioning the value of the shots. It then, according to Zuckerberg, conveys that “The science is completely clear: vaccinations work and are important for the health of everyone in our community.”
Zuckerberg’s book choice takes timely aim at the anti-vaccination movement, the parents and activists who claim in spite of research that vaccines are unsafe, in the wake of the current spate of people catching the measles, a disease that once was basically eradicated in the U.S. In is estimated that the anti-vaccine movement since 2007 is partly responsible for almost 9,000 deaths from preventable diseases in this country. The book’s author, Biss, sympathizes with parents’ concerns about inoculating children after giving birth herself and used her anxiety as a catalyst for her research in On Immunity.
Considering all the attention focused on vaccinations in recent months with measles, whooping cough and mumps returning as public health concerns, it was not surprising that Zuckerberg’s latest book choice created significant buzz and strong reactions both positive and negative. Zuckerberg defended the choice, explaining that he wanted to find a book that would address and explain people’s fears as well as the actual science.
Biss’s book, which is a short, quick read, addresses the issue from all sides. It discussed the real fear mothers have from conversations with some, the historical impact vaccines have had, and the research of their impact and effectiveness. She does not refer to the anti-vaccination movement, just talks about the vaccines in a forthright, but personal manner.
When Zuckerberg announced his virtual book club, entitled “A Year of Books,” as a New Year’s Resolution, he vowed to read a new volume every two weeks for 2015. He encouraged followers to join him in the endeavor because books “fully explore a topic and immerse (readers) in a deeper way than most media today.”
The Facebook founder promised that his biweekly selections would have an emphasis on learning about different cultures, histories, beliefs and technologies. The choice of On Immunity fits within his intention to use the book club to educate his followers in societal issues, economics and psychology. He also learned, as his club has evolved, that readers need a book that will engage, but not overwhelm them and feel like they are reading a textbook. Along those lines, Zuckerberg’s book selection of the short, easy reading yet engaging On Immunity serves that purpose while it joins the churning vaccination debate and will certainly bring new voices (postings?) into the dialog.
By Dyanne Weiss