“Defending vaccination once again, with feeling”
Mr. Mnookin’s passionate defense of vaccination may be just what the public needs, in equal parts because of what it says and because of who is saying it. … Neither a doctor nor a scientist, he has no vested interest in upholding the medical status quo (thus avoiding an accusation regularly flung at vaccine proponents). … a tour de force. … Parents who want to play it safe, but are not altogether sure how, should turn with relief to this reasoned, logical and comprehensive analysis of the facts.
— Abigail Zuger, MD, The New York Times
“An Epidemic of Ignorance”
A book that should be required reading at every medical school in the world. Seth Mnookin’s The Panic Virus is a lesson on how fear hijacks reason and emotion trumps logic. … A brilliant piece of reportage and science writing.
— Michael Shermer, The Wall Street Journal
“Epidemic of panic”
“In his disturbing chronicle, US writer Seth Mnookin looks into the anti-vaccine movement. His analysis is serious and gripping. … Mnookin’s careful science and compassion for both sides are examples for all journalists, and The Panic Virus should be read and pondered.”
— Melvin Konner, Nature
In my library: The Panic Virus
By investigating and debunking widespread — and dangerous — myths about the relationship between autism and childhood vaccines, Mnookin, employing reason, logic and an investigative reporter’s shoe leather, has written an old-fashioned book. And by old-fashioned, I mean that he adheres to the principles of the Enlightenment.
— Sarah Vowell, The New York Post
The Panic Virus [is] a brilliant, meticulously researched investigation into the popular belief that certain vaccines can cause autism. Combining narrative talent with assiduous reporting, Mnookin, a writer for Vanity Fair magazine, explores “a manner of thinking” that not only runs “counter to the principles of deductive reasoning,” but also threatens those of us who maintain enough faith in the medical establishment to vaccinate our kids. It takes guts to write a book informing a group of aggrieved parents that they’re wrong about the source of their child’s disorder. While Mnookin is consistently respectful of the emotional pain that autism can cause, he pulls no punches. Balancing sensitivity and science, he makes a devastating case that parents who reject vaccines for fear of autism are “casualties of a war built on lies.”
— James E. McWilliams, The Austin American-Statesman
Book Forum: The Panic Virus
Mnookin takes on the antivaccine movement with the skill of a journalist and the intellectual concerns of a sociologist. In this riveting book, filled with fascinating human interest stories, he also manages to explain why, even though science has so clearly shown that the evidence argues against a relationship between vaccines and autism, so many people still believe there is one. … The Panic Virus is a superb case study in the crisis of science in a democratic society.
— Roy Richard Grinker, The American Journal of Psychiatry
“Good Shots: From scare tactics to straight reporting, two endorse vaccinations”
The Panic Virus is a lively story about bad science, reactive policy and shoddy journalism, told by a curious narrator. … In one chapter, a broad discussion of scientific progress, Mr. Mnookin writes about Newtonian mechanics and Einstein’s theory of relativity, yet manages to squeeze in a footnote about true love. … He outlines a messy problem, one with no easy answers…to read The Panic Virus is to discover the larger story.
— Vivian Nereim, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Book Review: The Panic Virus by Seth Mnookin”
The braiding of well-researched scientific information with riveting takes on the people fueling recent vaccine wars is one of the book’s chief strengths. … One of the most important aspects of The Panic Virus…is the brash, sometimes blind self-confidence of our modern age. As Mnookin acutely observes: “The vernacular of 24-hour news channels and Internet search engines is freeing us to take on tasks that we’d long assumed were limited to those with specialized training.”
— Claire Panosian Dunavan, Los Angeles Times
“Typhoid Daddies: Seth Mnookin Takes On Jenny McCarthy & Co.”
The definitive, infuriating history of the myth that vaccines cause autism. … The Panic Virus [is] an attempt to explain how thousands of otherwise sophisticated Americans could make a fatuous decision to opt out of what is arguably modernity’s greatest medical achievement. Most children “exempted” from vaccines (a fittingly ridiculous term, as if the kids place out via AP exam) are not low-information progeny. They are being raised in college towns, in wealthy suburbs and in tony urban enclaves like Park Slope, by the sorts of parents who are otherwise given to grave tut-tutting about the anti-science stances of others—the climate-change know-nothings, say, or the ovine devotees of the garish Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky.
— Bill Wasik, The New York Observer
“The Panic Virus on the debate over vaccine use”
A disturbing and well-told chronicle of the childhood vaccine wars in the United States and England. While Mnookin traces the history of vaccines, beginning with the one for smallpox, his focus is on the specious but remarkably persistent myth that the current roster of shots children receive to prevent diseases such as measles, whooping cough and hepatitis B can cause autism or other serious problems – and that this “fact” is well-known to government officials, pediatricians and vaccine manufacturers, who have conspired to cover it up. … Mnookin’s contention that the controversy would not have achieved staying power without uncritical or at times blatantly irresponsible reporting by numerous media outlets – including NBC, the Huffington Post, Rolling Stone and The Washington Post – is persuasive. Too often, he writes, journalists display “a willingness to parrot quack claims under the guise of reporting on citizen concerns.” Much of the coverage failed to adequately explain the fundamental but essential difference between correlation and causation. … This book effectively documents the isolation and anguish of parents raising an autistic child, and it’s hard not to feel that these families are victims of a battle that has squandered significant resources. A former leader who has broken with one prominent autism group over its anti-vaccine stance said it best: “At some point, you have to say, ‘This question has been asked and answered and it’s time to move on.’ ”
— Sandra Boodman, The Washington Post
“Anatomy of a Panic”
The Panic Virus is sure to attract attention — and the virulent criticism of one of contemporary life’s most ardent insurgencies, those who believe inoculations possess the power to injure. … Mnookin’s book is an unsparing brief against the vaccine skeptics. But in a larger sense, this volume is less about the insurrection against inoculations than it is about the democratization of information. It is less about the movement to battle the medical establishment than it is about the ability of social networks to mobilize for what Mnookin and most mainstream scientists and doctors believe is a bad cause. It is less about reasoned debate than about the free flow of information through the Internet. It is less about the contagion of ideas than about the contagion of misinformation and mistrust that metastasizes in the new technology.
— David Shribman, The Boston Globe
Book Review: The Panic Virus
While The Panic Virus has a lot of information, Mnookin relates it in such a way that makes for a fairly quick read – and one that is compelling enough that I had a hard time putting the book down. … The Panic Virus is a book I would recommend to anyone about to become a parent or whose children are approaching vaccination age. Sadly, for parents who have already bought into the vaccine-causes-autism myth, it’s unlikely even a book as well-written as this will do much to change their minds, but because the decisions these parents make when they opt not to have their children vaccinated can affect all of the other children in their community, it is important for all parents to be educated about the risks.
“When the evidence is conclusive”
Excellent…a must read for parents and parents to be. … Mnookin makes a plea for reason and to giving weight to facts, not feelings and personal stories.
— Trine Tsouderos, Chicago Tribune
“Parents Who Think Vaccines Cause Autism Let Fear Defy Science”
A chilling and certain-to-be- controversial book. … Before the anti-vaccine crowd starts attacking Mnookin’s book, they should page ahead to the chapter entitled “Baby Brie” and read about seven-week-old Gabrielle Romaguera, who died of pertussis, or whooping cough — a once-vanquished disease that is on the rise as more children go unvaccinated.
— Robin D. Schatz, Bloomberg News
Book Review: The Panic Virus
Seth Mnookin’s brilliant, angry, thoroughly researched expose shows us how dangerous a little learning is, especially when you have downloaded it from the internet.
— Owen Richardson, The Age (Australia)
“Irrationality vs vaccines: Fighting for reality”
An essential new book about the modern anti-vaccination movement and its scientific poverty. … As he tells it, Mnookin was annoyed by the clueless intellectuals he encountered at New York dinner parties, who boasted about withholding necessary vaccines from their children. To these elites, these thinkers, giving children so many shots “just felt wrong”. And though the science said it was safe, they reasoned, science is always incomplete. The Panic Virus was born of Mnookin’s outrage at these flimsy arguments, and fortunately so, because someone with his background is vitally needed on this topic: one cannot grasp how we became so dangerously irrational in our outlook on vaccines without first understanding the role of the mass media – now almost entirely shorn of its science journalists and increasingly driven by sensationalism and crass financial considerations.
— Chris Mooney, New Scientist
“A fascinating book explores the myth perpetuated by ‘snake oil salesman’ that vaccines could lead to autism”
Mnookin documents a conspiracy being perpetrated by profiteers and charlatans who are making a living by convincing parents that doctors and public health officials can’t be trusted. Through hundreds of interviews and exhaustive research, Mnookin not only debunks the vaccines-cause-autism theory but also exposes many of the leaders of the anti-vaccine movement as modern snake oil salesmen, peddling quack cures to parents desperate to help their children. … Loaded with interesting anecdotes and historical tidbits, The Panic Virus is a fascinating read. The scope of the book is often impressive.
— Susannah Nesmith, The Miami Herald
A devastating indictment of a dangerous mass delusion — and a disturbingly profitable fraud. Mnookin reveals the long history of a conflict that harks back to the 1720s, when Cotton Mather was firebombed for advocating vaccinations. Alarmist TV reports in the 1980s, bearing titles like “Vaccine Roulette,” proved scarcely less crude. The result, combined with fraudulent research bearing the imprimatur of The Lancet, is a damning parade of lazy reporters, incompetent doctors and opportunistic politicians.”
— Paul Collins, The Oregonian
“Panic Virus explores dangerous trend”
“An insightful and frightening book. … Mnookin deftly weaves together the many factors, old and new, responsible for this health-scare hoax. … His bigger message is how we’re living now in a ‘world with increasingly porous boundaries between facts and beliefs, a world in which individualized notions of reality, no matter how bizarre or irrational, are repeatedly validated.’ It’s a message too important to ignore, even if — as Paul Simon understood long ago — we’d rather just hear what we want to hear.”
— John Wilkens, San Diego Union-Tribune
Mnookin has written a well-documented history of how this scare grew from a fringe phenomenon to a widely accepted part of the public discourse. That he manages to explain some difficult science and also maintain a page-turner narrative is a tribute to his storytelling skills. The result is devastating. To paraphrase Ross Perot, if the story Mnookin documents doesn’t scare you to death, nothing will.
— The Herald-Sun, Durham, NC
The book is very well written. I believe I have spent more time than most on the subject and I still found a lot of new and interesting information in this book. Mr. Mnookin had great access. He interviewed David Kirby and Lyn Redwood, including a discussion of how the book Evidence of Harm came into being. He spoke repeatedly with Andrew Wakefield. He attended AutismOne. This is not a “Google Ph.D.” research effort. He got down into the trenches and he brings new information to light. In many ways, the book is a discussion of how people come to believe and promote ideas that are false. Unfortunately for us, vaccine-rejectionists and parts of the autism communities present the best example of this behavior in modern history. Mr. Mnookin brings an outsider’s eye to the story and comes down clear and decisive that there really is no debate on these issues, no real controversy. The science is in and it is clear.
— Sullivan, Left Brain/Right Brain
In this searching exposé, the recent hysteria over childhood vaccinations and their alleged link to autism becomes a cautionary tale of bad science amplified by media sensationalism. … Mnookin presents a thorough and lucid debunking of the claims of a link between vaccines and autism and the charlatanism and profiteering of those who publicize it. The result is a hard-hitting contribution to the debate and a troubling portrait of a public sphere that elevates intuition and emotion above reason and evidence.
— Publisher’s Weekly
Former Newsweek senior journalist focuses his masterful investigative skills on the highly controversial [mercury-causes-autism] possibility, illustrating how the current, misguided anti-vaccine movement can be blamed almost equally on panic-driven parents, sensation-hungry media, and PR-challenged health authorities. … Mnookin dismantles this link convincingly. … He’s an able, engaging wordsmith, and this cautionary tale about misinformed medical alarmism is thoroughly compelling.
Vaccination has had its critics since the days of Edward Jenner and cowpox, but the autism scare is fairly new. … As Mnookin notes, it seems to have been heard particularly clearly in wealthy communities and “left-leaning, well-educated enclaves,” among them Ashland, Ore., and Marin County, Calif. In these affluent areas, children are not being vaccinated, with the result that “an entire century’s worth of medical advances have effectively been reversed.” … Mnookin ties the current anti-vaccination fervor, which vastly outstrips earlier campaigns against vaccination (and its close cousin, fluoridation), to the flourishing of the anti-science mood generally. … A solid work of popular science, and sure to court controversy.
— Kirkus Reviews
There’s no evidence that vaccines cause autism. Yet a “self-indulgent and irresponsible” press corps following a “he said, she said” paradigm has spread that unsubstantiated claim to the point that once-rare, deadly diseases are coming back because parents swayed by these false reports are deciding not to vaccinate their children. That’s the core argument of Seth Mnookin’s new book The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear. Mr. Mnookin is a smooth writer and a hardworking reporter, and The Panic Virus puts both his writing and reporting talents on fine display.
— Ira Stoll, The Future of Capitalism
The Panic Virus is the kind of book that is extremely difficult to put down once you start reading. In part because Mnookin’s writing style is effortless; he engages the reader from the opening paragraph and has the ability to simplify complex concepts while never appearing to underestimate his audience. The other thing that makes this book so fascinating is that it is a factual account of a very recent controversy which threw decades of medical practice into doubt. … I cannot recommend this book highly enough. … It serves as a ringing alarm to a sleeping public – we can have our own opinions, but we cannot have our own facts.