In the era of COVID-19, infectious diseases and vaccines are in the daily headlines and on everyone's mind. But COVID-19 is far from being the only infectious disease that has sent scientists scrambling for a cure. From yellow fever to Ebola, infectious disesases and the search for prevention measures and cures have shaped science and history for millenia. This is made even more difficult by the rise of vaccine misinformation and disinformation.

With holiday breaks and the gift-giving season upon us, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite books about infectious diseases and vaccines for those interested in learning more from doctors, infectious disease specialists and researchers digging into the truth (and fiction) about these topics.

The American Plague
Yellow fever has played a part in shaping society for centuries. From paralyzed governments to halted commerce and quarantined cities, the disease has crossed oceans and created havoc wherever is spreads. During a single summer in Memphis alone, it cost more lives than the Chicago fire, the San Francisco earthquake and the Johnstown flood combined.
In “The American Plague,” Molly Caldwell Crosby explores the catastrophic effects of the disease, the controversial search for a cure and the lasting impacts and spread of the virus in a 21st-century world.

Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All
Vaccines have saved more lives than any other medical invention, but some people are hesitant to receiving the life-saving injections. As unfounded stories about the dangers of vaccines spread around the globe, healthcare workers are finding it increasingly difficult to keep communities protected from dangerous illnesses like whooping cough and measles.
In “Deadly Choices,” Dr. Paul Offit, recipient of the 2018 Sabin Gold Medal, explores how vaccines came to be viewed with such fear, and why addressing the root causes of vaccine hesitancy is key to keeping children and adults around the world protected from preventable deadly diseases.

Crisis in the Red Zone
“Crisis in the Red Zone” chronicles the 2013-2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. From the first case in Africa to the virus’ spread around the world, Richard Preston explores the physical, emotional and ethical dilemmas faced in battling the epidemic, the lessons learned and why we should be prepared for more frequent and severe disease outbreaks moving forward, including outbreaks of pathogens the world doesn’t even yet know exist.

The Doctor Who Fooled the World
Controversy and hesitancy about vaccines has spread around the globe in recent decades, allowing for increases of numerous vaccine-preventable diseases. In “The Doctor Who Fooled the World,” Brian Deer explores modern-day vaccine hesitancy, much of which can be traced back to the discredited claims of Andrew Wakefield.
In his investigation, Deer discusses the investigation that exposed and discredited one of the biggest scientific scandals in recent history, and what it means for the scientific and vaccine communities moving forward.

The Plague Cycle
Infectious diseases have shaped history for thousands of years. As the world has become increasingly urbanized and globalized, however, we are more vulnerable than ever to newly emerging plagues with millions of lives and trillions of dollars at stake.
“The Plague Cycle” explores the relationships between civilization, globalization, prosperity and infectious disease over the past five millennia, providing a relevant and timely look at the cyclical nature of infectious disease.

Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine's Greatest Livesaver
Political and social intrigue have often accompanied vaccination―from the introduction of smallpox inoculation in colonial Boston to parents convinced that vaccines caused their children's autism.
In “Vaccine,” Arthur Allen explores the stories of the scientists credited with discovering the life-saving vaccines and industry’s struggle to produce vaccines that are safe, effective and profitable. His account details the hope and controversy that have surrounded vaccines since their inception and how they have affected the world’s notions of health, risk and the common good.



 

When Germs Travel
From centuries-old plagues to newly emerging infectious diseases, dangerous pathogens remain a worldwide threat. In “When Germs Travel,” Howard Markel examines the fragility of the American public health system through the stories of six epidemics – tuberculosis, bubonic plague, trachoma, typhus, cholera and HIV/AIDS.
Examining the United States’ fruitless attempts at isolation and showing how globalization leaves the entire world vulnerable, Howard Markel investigates the case for a globally funded public health program that could stop the spread of epidemics and safeguard the health of the world.

 



 

Beating Back the Devil
The Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) are the disease detectives of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Founded more than 50 years ago, the EIS is charged with trying to prevent disease outbreaks and bioterrorist attacks around the world. They were first to investigate novel outbreaks of diseases like hantavirus, Ebola and HIV/AIDS, while also working to protect the world from often-forgotten threats like West Nile virus, anthrax, SARS and many other deadly pathogens.
In “Beating Back the Devil,” Maryn McKenna offers readers an inside look at the first class of disease detectives to come to the CDC after September 11, and their efforts to battle outbreaks of deadly diseases before they become epidemics that threaten the whole world.



 

The Vaccine Race
Until just a few decades ago, tens of thousands of American children suffered severe birth defects if their mothers were exposed to rubella while pregnant. There was no vaccine and little understanding of the disease until 1962 when a young biologist produced safe, clean cells that enabled the creation of vaccines against rubella and many other deadly diseases like polio, rabies, chicken pox, measles, hepatitis A, shingles and adenovirus.
In “The Vaccine Race,” Meredith Wadman investigates not only the science of this urgent race, but also the political roadblocks that nearly stopped the scientists, and the lasting implications for modern day vaccine hesitancy in the fight against dangerous diseases.

  


The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in these books do not necessarily reflect the views of the Sabin Vaccine Institute.