Review of A Shot in the Arm, by Don Brown

Big Ideas That Changed the World

A Shot in the Arm

by Don Brown

Amulet Books, 2021. 138 pages.
Starred Review
Review written July 28, 2021, from a library book

This is a graphic format work of nonfiction – like a graphic novel, but full of facts, presented all the more clearly because it’s so visual.

This book presents the history of vaccines, narrated by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu of the 17th century, who brought smallpox vaccinations to England.

We first learn about the history of smallpox – it was around even in ancient Egypt. And many cultures found ways of fighting it. In China, as early as 1000 CE, they tried infecting people with a mild form of the disease. (How they did that makes some interesting panels.) In India, they did that as well, and Lady Mary discovered it in the Ottoman Empire when she lived there with her husband.

The book goes on to explain the history of inoculation and vaccination and different diseases that have been tackled.

The book does mention COVID-19, but was written before the vaccine was out. Here’s the last paragraph of the main text:

By November 2020 scientists were reporting positive results for several possible vaccines. If one or more are approved, then within months disease-preventing doses can begin to be administered to people around the world. Billions of dollars are being spent to make this happen. Still, no vaccine has ever been created as quickly or in that quantity.

The world holds its breath . . . and hopes.

There’s nothing in here about the reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine, because that hadn’t happened yet. But there’s nothing new under the sun, and this is in the section about smallpox inoculation:

Here’s an odd twist . . . Some people in the Ottoman Empire known as “fatalists” rejected inoculation because they believed that stopping disease interfered with God’s plans . . .

I think God would prefer a healthy flock.

Even though I knew most of the basics about this, the book was still eye-opening and informative for me. The graphic format makes it quick reading and easy to digest. But what a timely topic!

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