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Defeating the Ministers of Death: The compelling story of vaccination, one of medicine's greatest triumphs
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Defeating the Ministers of Death: The compelling story of vaccination, one of medicine's greatest triumphs

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  81 ratings  ·  22 reviews
The compelling story of vaccination.

We may fear terrorist attacks, but in truth humans have always had far more to fear from infections. In 1919, Spanish flu killed over 50 million people, more than died in both world wars combined. In 1950, an estimated 50 million people caught smallpox worldwide, of whom 10 million died. In 1980, before measles vaccine was widely used, a
Paperback, 368 pages
Published April 1st 2019 by HarperCollins - AU
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Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Immunisation scepticism is very much a first world problem.

A decent read providing quite a high level summary of the history of immunisation. It also briefly covered various diseases such as polio, smallpox, TB.

Learnt a few things. But I wish it explored things a little more in depth at times, namely the conflict between personal choice and infringement of other people's liberties. Also a further delve into ethics would have been interesting.
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Enthralling history of infectious diseases and the role of vaccination in their control and defeat. . A professor of Paediatrics, David Isaacs’ writing is concise but fluid and fills his pages with vignettes and human stories to lay bare the story of smallpox, rabies, polio, diphtheria, hepatitis B, meningitis, German measles and more.

The shocking story of the 19th Century GP, Dr Edward Jenner, giving an eight year old labourer’s son a dose of smallpox to see if his prior vaccination with the re
Shilpa Shah
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Book review: Defeating the ministers of death
Author: Prof David Isaacs

If there ever was a time to read this book, it is now. As the world experiences the wrath of one infectious disease, Professor Isaacs opens our eyes to the past battles we have fought to limit, eliminate and eradicate many such infections. The trials and tribulations, successes and failures, flawed hypotheses juxtaposed with unparalleled genius are all part of the glorious and chequered history of vaccines. He showcases the p
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you have ever wondered if Vaccination is really worth it,
If you have ever wondered about vaccinating your children,
or if you would like support to your argument that vaccination is the best thing for everyone,
this book is wonderful.
Read it.
Allyce Cameron
Oct 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Well, I finished it. Finally. Which has absolutely no bearing on how good the book is, because it is a winner, but just that I attempted to read this chapter by chapter on my lunch break (in my self delusion that I would actually take an hour break every day, who was I kidding), which is why it literally took me a year to finish. It was engaging, entertaining and made me ultimately hopeful about the future of world health (in terms of vaccinations anyway) despite the ignorant minority. I’m not a ...more
Sam Law
Read More Book Reviews on my blog It's Good To Read

This is essentially a numbers book:

Spanish flu 1918: Infected 500 million people globally, killing up to 50 million.
Smallpox 1950: 10 million die from an estimated 50 million cases worldwide.
Diphtheria 1930’s: Third leading cause of child death in England and Wales. (This one is personal, as my own mother had it as a child!).
Measles 1980: An estimated 2.6 million children died.
There are myriad other diseases out there, for exampl
Belle Beth Cooper
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The subtitle of this book is spot on. It *is* a compelling history of vaccination. The author says the point of this book was to use the most interesting stories to illustrate the history of vaccination, so there are lots of stories used to illustrate the facts presented, which makes it an easy read for non-fiction. Three stories help the facts to stick with you, and the author does a really good job of making the facts easy to understand without talking down to the reader. I'll be reading this ...more
Barbara Whitehead
Oct 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
I found this to be a good read, especially given the backdrop of our times - hunting for a vaccine for Covid19. "Defeating the Ministers of Death" is a solid, high level overview of the history of vaccination, which truly is one of medicine's greatest triumphs.

While I previously knew a number of things about vaccinations - based on my own experience with myself and my children- this book proved to be a good refresher of the history and terms related to vaccination e.g., variolation where a redu
Kerran Olson
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, bookclub
I started this book a few months ago and forgot to come back to until now, but I'm so glad I did. It was so interesting, but also a really accesible read- I sometimes find medical non fiction can be confusing and hard to decipher for those of us wjondont work in that kind of field, but this was written in a way that was easy to understand and really engaging. I also feel like the book covered so much, from the very beginnings of vaccination and some of the (now clearly unethical) steps that huma ...more
Hanah Williams
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is a great introduction to the vaccine world. It gave insight into multiple diseases and how vaccination not only came to be but how vaccination helped eradicate multiple plaguing diseases. It addressed a lot of the current controversy surrounding vaccination and should be read by both vaccine-pro and anti-vaccine individuals to provide a better insight into why vaccination is so important. This is a very easy read and should be a stepping stone into the conversation that is on a lot o ...more
Jenny Cook
Aug 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
A very interesting read about the history of vaccination and the development of vaccines. As a non-medical person, I found the history and background to the treatment of past rampant diseases, such as smallpox, tuberculosis and measles etc to be detailed enough to offer a thorough history, yet not overly bogged down by scientific or medical data. It is a very readable and interesting book which I picked up at a Lifeline pop up book store. Well worth reading to learn about vaccines and particular ...more
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
SUCH A GOOD BOOK! Originally thought it would be a struggle to read as sometimes medical related non-fiction can get a little too technical for me - but this book was just so well written and easy to follow. Really liked that the chapters were short, sharp and shiny - I'm sure they could have gone into much further detail but it made a really great overview that was thoroughly interesting! ...more
Phoebe Radford
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read this a while ago, before the coronavirus. There aren't many books I would say that everyone should read but this is definitely one. It covers the history of vaccinations and looks at how they were developed. It addresses concerns and is a fascinating human story as well as a scientific and historical story. ...more
Kathy Hoopmann
Sep 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Who would have thought that book about vaccinations could be so interesting. Prof Isaccs has a lovely fluid way of writing that pulls you along as well as any good fiction writer. And his information and research is fascinating! Highly recommended.
Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant! Not your average science textbook. This book shows both sodes of the vaccine debate and really dives into the the stories behind each vaccine discovery. I highly recommend this book. I found it to be un-putdown-able!
Jul 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the best non-fiction books I have ever read, it was like a scandalous novel (even Trump gets a mention!). Whatever your point of view, this is an important history and reinforces why we need to continue research and sharing the knowledge of lessons learned.
James Robertson
May 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Filled with interesting facts. Terrific public health and social justice perspective. Very readable informal style
Feb 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Worth quite the read to learn how far we've come with the great help of vaccines. ...more
Kylie Waters
Great read. Effortlessly accessible for the non medical.
Fascinating, easy to read and hopeful.
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was so informative and interesting. A book on the history of vaccination may sound a little boring at first, but this was I book I could not put down. The unbiased tone and factual information had me reaching for a highlighter at some points.
Definitely recommend to anyone interested in medicine, science history, or those who want to know more about vaccination.
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