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Control All Delete, Part 3: How a Critical Review of a Book on How Great Vaccination Is Got Pulled By a Publication That Brags How "Independent" It Is

Eula BissControl All Delete, Part 2: How Crying ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Suppresses the Vaccine Safety Debate

Control All Delete, Part 1: The Un-American Suppression of the Vaccine Safety Debate

By Dan Olmsted

Few books published last year won the raves that welcomed On Immunity – An Inoculation by Eula Biss. Its spare 163 pages of text offered a “beautiful shot of insight,” The Los Angeles Times wrote -- a shot that includes our collective duty to vaccinate. “We owe each other our bodies,” Biss concludes.

To which I say, I don’t think so. But it’s a free country and people can agree or disagree, right?

Most agreed with Biss, lauding her “elegant, intelligent and very beautiful book, which occupies a space between research and reflection, investigating our attitudes toward immunity and inoculation through a personal and cultural lens,” according to the Times. Along the way Biss, “a vigorous advocate for inoculation … reveals the rhetoric of the anti-vaccination movement for the sophistry it is.” Parody Cover

Entertainment Weekly gave it an A and put it at Number 2 on its best nonfiction books of the year; it was in the New York Times Top 10; and Mark Zuckerberg recently picked it for his Facebook book club, thereby fighting “fears of vaccination” and showing his “talent for surfing the zeitgeist by selecting On Immunity,” according to Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

I’ve read it, and lovely as it may be, it is, in my view, to which, as I’ve already said, I’m entitled, dead wrong. It takes its place in the pantheon of work by people who haven’t gone deeply enough into the subject to master it – Biss thinks adolescents get a chickenpox booster, which they don’t, and that seizures after vaccination only happen to kids who would have had them anyway -- but presumes to lecture the rest of us on the roots of our scientific illiteracy and susceptibility to primal but unfounded fears of vaccination and autism. Heck, we don't even understand metaphors right. Here is my favorite bit:

“When I learned of the resulting conference on immuno-semiotics, I was excited by the possibility that it was devoted to the discussion of metaphor, a semiotic device,” Biss writes. I must say I have never heard the parent of an autistic child excited about an upcoming conference on immuno-semiotics (immune deficiencies, yes). I think it’s the kind of book that people think they like because it makes them feel smart, sort of A Brief History of Time for the vaccine debate.

One of the few equivocal responses to the book was a review by Jennifer Margulis that ran last October in the Washington Independent Review of Books (remember the word “independent,” which will soon go belly up). Headlined “This heartfelt ode to inoculations dismisses concerns about vaccines,” it begins:

“On Immunity is an extended nonfiction essay — an impressionistic, metaphor-laden, first-person account of author Eula Biss' fears for her infant son's safety and the questions and concerns she has as she educates herself about vaccines. This slim book combines real-life vignettes with literary criticism, information about the history of vaccines in the United States, informal interviews with scientists, and chats Biss has had with friends and relatives.” 

Margulis, a widely published author who wrote The Business of Baby, also notes, correctly: “Biss is not interested in stories of vaccine injury, which she dismisses as exaggerated. Nor is she interested in the devastating fact that one in every 42 boys in America today has autism, or that we are seeing a rise in many other diseases among American children, including Type-1 diabetes and other autoimmune disorders. …

“Yet, ironically, Biss' own son may have been vaccine injured. She explains that he suffers from debilitating allergies that sometimes leave him unable to breathe.

“’My son has unusually severe allergies, which he developed at an unusually young age,’ Biss writes. ‘His pediatrician calls him her 'outlier' because he is a statistical anomaly. By the time he turned three, his allergies had led to swelling in his nasal cavity, and this swelling had led to painful sinus infections, which we had cured with antibiotics several times, but which inevitably returned.’”

In her review, Margulis notes studies that suggest a connection between vaccinations and allergies, provides links, and concludes: “Biss' metaphorical musing on vaccinations and how to protect our children from harm ultimately reads like an extended attempt to justify her choice to fully vaccinate her son on the CDC's current vaccine schedule.”

Fair enough, to my mind. But on November 21, the article disappeared from the Washington Independent Review. Poof. Gone. Search there for “on immunity” now and you get: “Sorry, your query did not return any results. Check your spelling or try a different search term.”

So what happened? Margulis explains what happened in a post on, which also prints the original review: Margulis describes how she was mentioned by Biss in an earlier article (as well as briefly in the book itself), a fact that Margulis brought up with the editor prior to accepting the assignment. This was duly noted it in the original review: "Editor’s Note: We assigned this review to Jennifer Margulis because she has spent over 10 years researching and writing about childhood vaccination. Before accepting the assignment, Margulis informed us that, although she does not know Eula Biss personally, she and Biss have had cordial email correspondence, and that Biss mentions Margulis by name in both a Harper's magazine article and in On Immunity."

After publication of Margulis's review, “Eula Biss and her publisher contacted them to complain,” Margulis says. Biss sent an e-mail dated November 25 to Margulis denying that she had anything to do with it being removed:


Dear Jennifer,

I’d like you to understand why I wrote to the Washington Independent Review about your review. I did not, for the record, ask them to take it down at any point. But I did express my dismay over the fact that you chose to build an argument around my child’s body. And I shared my sense that you had ranged outside the territory of a civil review and violated my child’s privacy when you called him “vaccine injured.” Both your language and your strategy struck me as inappropriate. 

Given that I have critiqued your ideas publicly, I also suggested to the WIR that your motivations could be called into question. This is what I said:

“Here's an analogy -- a physician is given multiple gifts from a pharmaceutical company, including pens and paper that bear the name of a certain drug. The physician then prescribes that drug to a patient, who is ill. Even assuming that the illness is correctly diagnosed and that the drug is indeed effective, there are some ethical quandaries here. Did the physician prescribe the drug because it was the best drug for that condition, or because he was grateful for the gifts, or simply because the pens and paper had insinuated the name of the drug into his mind and he was subconsciously swayed in his decision making?

In this case, the illness may be real (meaning there are likely problems with my book) and the medicine might be effective (meaning that those problems deserve critique) but there is sufficient evidence for a person to fairly wonder whether the physician (Margulis) is prescribing that drug for the right reasons.” 

I believe, as I told the WIR, that you are entitled to critique my work and my ideas, but I do not believe that you are entitled to wildly speculate about my son’s health. I know that is par for the course in the ugly terrain that is the vaccine debate, but I don’t engage that way and I don’t remain silent when I am engaged that way. Expressing one’s hopes for a more responsible discourse and articulating one’s own understanding of professional ethics is not akin to censorship.

When I wrote to WIR, I didn’t threaten any action, and I do not have the power to force any publication to censor a review that I am not happy with. But I do reserve the right to talk back, particularly when a review is not factually accurate. For instance, the following is untrue:

“She is told by one doctor that her son must never get another flu vaccine because he is allergic to eggs.”

No doctor ever said that to me -– in fact, two doctors encouraged me to vaccinate my son despite his allergy and he has since been vaccinated against the flu every fall. (All this is in my book, though you may not have read that far.)

Beyond factual errors, I think you misrepresent a number of things in which I hold a stake. My mention of you in my book is not “neutral,” for example -- it is civil, but it is also a fairly forceful critique of your position. Our email exchange was not what I would call “brief,” and when I expressed concerns to WIR, I was not engaging in a “battle.”

I was, as I am doing now, simply making an argument for the kind of integrity that I value.




First things first. Margulis says in her review that given the information Biss offered in her book, her son might have suffered adverse events.  (She does not say he is “vaccine injured,” which Biss, a stickler for accuracy, must know.) The idea that Margulis improperly built an argument “around my child’s body” is not, to my mind, valid. You can’t write a book centered on your experiences with your own child and vaccination, and expect readers not to connect dots they may happen to observe. Similarly, discussing her child’s intolerance to an ingredient in the flu shot and her discussion with her doctor about whether he should receive it is also completely appropriate.

Biss, like so many who treat parents of vaccine-injured children like, well, children, can certainly dish it out. Speaking of Andy Wakefield’s 1998 Lancet early report, she writes, “Wakefield’s study forwarded a hypothesis that was already in the air, a hypothesis that held particular appeal for women still haunted by the refrigerator mother theory. Those who went on to use Wakefield’s inconclusive work to support the notion that vaccines cause autism are not guilty of ignorance or science denial so much as they are guilty of using weak science as it has always been used – to lend false credibility to an idea that we want to believe for other reasons.”

What is she saying about mothers who believe vaccines made their children autistic? Stripped of the circumlocutious preciosity that infects so much of her prose, it’s not very nice.

As Margulis points on on greenmedinfo, 

"This 'conflict of interest' would, of course, have been happily ignored if I had written a positive review. And, of course, a conflict of interest was avoided by being properly disclosed at the bottom of the review. Censoring this book review is part of a larger battle reasonable journalists face whenever they write issues related to vaccine safety and the very real and devastating problems in our current American vaccine system, which is sadly based more on maximizing profits and promoting special interests than it is about what is in the best interests of our children's health."

Biss’ work, and her thin-skinned response to a reasoned critique, fits with the kind of pseudo-intellectual attack on suffering children and families that really drives me bananas, to use the technical term. The fact that people at an “independent” book review pay any attention to her high-falutin' whining when she gets some pushback is symptomatic of something quite sinister, and un-American.


Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.




weird and creepy

I would love to read a follow up article regarding Elizabeth Aquino's comment about her interview disappearing. This is a fascinating topic which seems to be happening with some spooky frequency. I saw some information that Columbia Journalism school has received a grant to study scrubbing of internet news sites. Maybe some information could be gotten there.
By the way, the cover parody was fantastic. Thanks to all for this very unusual piece.

Disgusted by Daily Kos

I can't believe this woman. What a sanctimonious jerk to carry on about her poor "son's body" after dissing everyone else and their children's health issues and bringing up his symptoms herself. I can only hope I don't run into her at the next immuno-semiotics conference. Maybe I better stay clear even though I was looking forward to spending hours listening to a bunch of delusional windbags...


Jennifer Margulis is the daughter of Lynn Margulis, one of the greatest and most deeply original biologists of the 20th century.

Like her mother, she evidently has a gift for recognizing gelded orthodoxy ripe for the goring when she sees it, and she obviously has the guts to stand up against the raging crowd when she believes she's right -- also like her mother.

I hope she'll continue to write about vaccines.

Elizabeth Aquino

I was recently the subject of an interview/article by the esteemed Karen Lowe of the Annenberg Center who wrote the article for National Geographic's online site. I am the mother of three children who chose to delay vaccinations for my second two after my first was possibly damaged by vaccines in 1995. She suffers from a severe seizure disorder and developmental disabilities. I feel like I exposed our family to do it and did so hoping to change the tone of the "debate" with some nuance. The article went live on the site on February 14th, garnered over 125 comments there and thousands more on the Facebook page as well as hundreds of shares. At some point over the next few weeks, though, it disappeared. I contacted Ms. Lowe, and she knew nothing about why it wasn't up but promised to find out. I have yet to hear.

Weird and scary stuff.


They (and you know who they is) would extol a stinking pile of horseshit if it was pro-vaccine.

Cherry Sperlin Misra

Dear Sadly, I want to tell you that I am sure that over time you are going to see great improvement in your daughter. Congratulations for what you have already achieved. Do try out Haritake, 650 mg perday, This is a great way to improve health. It is an herb from India which is considered to be without side effects. The mercury toxicologist Christopher Shade uses Haritake to improve excretion of mercury, by upregulating glutathione activity. When I, as an adult, about a year ago started Haritake I was feeling terrible and a months later I felt wonderful.I did not catch so much as a little cold for one year thereafter. One warning- If your child still has constipation due to candida, the Haritake will kill the candida instantly, resulting in die off symptoms for 1-2 days.


I wonder if Eula Biss is making sure those annual flu vaccines are the thimerosal-free type?

I strongly suspect that annual flu vaccines laden with mercury (perhaps in combo with aluminum-containing shots) are what led to my child's slow downward spiral into ill health and autistic behaviors. A remarkably precocious and outgoing, never-sick child who loved books turned into an extremely shy, anxious, sickly child with multiple food intolerances, constant sinus infections, severe constipation, hearing and vision issues, and inability to concentrate. Detoxing her for mercury and other non-mainstream interventions solved many of her physical health problems, but her food sensitivities, inattention, hearing and vision issues, poor memory, and shyness remain very troublesome to her and have made her life, and ours, so much less enjoyable and happy.

Over the years I have read several similar reports of other kids ages 7 and up regressing after flu shots . Eula Biss might be well advised to read this published one:

We don't need another injured child in the world, and the mother's sins should not be visited upon any innocent child. So I do not wish any ill upon her child and truly hope that she is, at a minimum getting thimerosal-free flu shots, for him.

If not, poetic justice and karma may visit Eula Biss as the biological and physical effects of toxicity do not discriminate--they afflict all who are sufficiently exposed--the intelligent and less intelligent, the innocent and guilty alike.

If/when that happens, Eula will find her musings much harder to sleep with, much harder to write, and perhaps impossible to get published.

Angus Files

whoever the puppeteer is ...calls the tune..



Great parody cover!


Her mother is an MD. But that probably never influenced her, huh?


I don't know which is worse, the crisis in science or the crisis in journalism.


They're the same crisis.

cia parker

Read Biss' reasons for not letting her son get the hep-B vaccine here:

grey one

Mr Alibek's account, along with those of so very many parents and affected adults and children brings us, against the backdrop of mandatory vaccination, to what Dr. King called "the fierce urgency of now".

Jenny Allan

Cia Parker says :- "Of COURSE she has to wax indignant at this perceived violation of her and her son's privacy. But how vile to use her son to promote her agenda pushing vaccines, and then to scream foul when her son's outcome instead shows EXACTLY why parents should reject vaccines."

Remember our erstwhile UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, whose Labour Government was instrumental in the victimisation of Dr Andrew Wakefield and his Royal Free Hospital, London clinician colleagues, following a 13 author, 5 page Lancet paper? The Royal Free team identified a then novel neurological/bowel syndrome in 12 referred children, (NOT novel now). The childrens' PARENTS reported an apparent MMR vaccine link.

Mr Blair has still NOT told us whether or not his son Leo had MMR vaccine or individual single Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccines. At the time it was rumoured Leo was secretly vaccinated with single jabs in France. He is now nearly 15 years old. Whatever the truth, it was Mr Blair's DUTY as Prime Minister to publicly endorse the MMR vaccine by vaccinating his son with it. All this rubbish about Leo's 'privacy', was nauseating....and fooled no-one.


Eula Biss might be interested in what Ken Alibek, once head of the Russian biological weapons program and author of _Biohazard_, has to say about allergies and vaccines:

"I have lost all sense of smell and have the broadest range of allergies of anyone I know. I can't eat butter, cheese, eggs, mayonnaise, sausages, chocolate or candy. I swallow two or three pills of anti-allergy medicine a day--more on bad days, when my sinuses start to drain. Every morning, I rub ointment over my face, neck, and hands to give my skin the natural lubricants it has lost. The countless vaccinations I received against anthrax, plague, and tularemia weakened my resistance to disease and probably shortened my life."

And later in the book:

"Repeated vaccination has been known to trigger or aggravate allergies. Thirty minutes after I received my last vaccination against anthrax in 1987, my face became swollen, and I developed a rash and had trouble breathing. I took Dimidrol, a powerful anti-allergy medication available in Russia (though not in the United States) and felt better again in a few hours. For the next ten days I received intravenous preparations at a hospital--a form of allergy treatment we call desensibilization therapy. Several colleagues had been forbidden from anthrax work after similar reactions. I knew this was a sign that I was genetically susceptible to large quantities of specific foreign proteins, and that my immune system had been stretched to the limit. I received my first anthrax vaccination in 1979 and began a course of annual vaccinations in 1982. I was also vaccinated against smallpox once, twice against tularemia and four times against plague. The chronic allergies I have suffered throughout my adult life are a direct consequence of repeated exposures to live vaccines, and to other biological substances I worked with."


At The National Vaccine Plan site in Appendix 5, the media is listed as a stakeholder in the "Vaccine System".

Calling Out the Hypocrites

@Dan Burns: No matter. I've learned to save screen shots.

Jeannette Bishop

This is all too much for me to understand, so, I'm left to be grateful that Ms. Margulis (along with Mr. Olmsted) is out there trying to write honestly about vaccination, and that Ms. Biss did not have her son vaccinated with hepB (assuming she really didn't), and hoping that maybe she also finds the current push for no choice in the procedure a little disconcerting, if not threatening, also.

Louis Conte

Someone should write a book called "On Insanity" because that is what is really going on here.

We defeated Hitler and put men on the moon and have since turned into sniveling cowards who are afraid of rebuke for asking tough questions.

I don't know which is worse, the crisis in science or the crisis in journalism.

John Stone

Biss is like a nightmare Jane Austen character, trailing her sensibility while trampling ruthlessly over people. But Twyla is probably right that the real arm-twisting came from somewhere else. People will start to think like Cait Beattie as the campaign to stamp out all independent expression continues.

Dan Burns

The link to Biss's "Sentimental Medicine" essay brings up an error: "Page not found ... May have been renamed or removed."


So, Eula Biss can spend an entire book disparaging parents' choices on vaccines, ascribing various motives and thoughts and emotions to them, and "wildly speculating" that their children's vaccine injuries are not vaccine injuries. And, she describes her own son's medical history - it's out there, in the book, not kept confidential. But for anyone to say anything about her son's medical history is "outside the territory of a civil review and violated my child’s privacy"? Jennifer Margolis only responded to what was in the book -- no violation of privacy, nothing uncivil.

Eula Biss is the epitome of passive-agressive. Sugar coating her attacks, couching her meanness in literary pretensions and pseudo-thoughtfulness, pretending to be empathetic when she actually lacks empathy, pretending to be scientific when she is simply repeating spin that is aimed at discrediting the experiences of thousands of families -- spin which prevents the development of good science and medicine to address problems that are being swept under the rug.

Classic passive-agressive: "I did not, for the record, ask them to take it down at any point. But I did express my dismay over the fact that you chose to build an argument around my child’s body." I'm just a victim, I suffered harm, I did not intend to hurt anyone! Right.

But I suspect it was not Ms. Biss's letter that got the review pulled. No doubt more powerful people such as sponsors and govt people etc. put the pressure on the Washington Independent Review of Books. It's really hard to make ends meet these days, and unfortunately even the best publications are no longer independent.

Eula Biss thinks she is an independent thoughtful woman, but in reality she is a tool.

She is very manipulative, but is also manipulated.

cia parker

I think Biss was engaged to write a pseudo-intellectual poetic meditation on vaccines as a communal responsibility to try to reach the intelligent, well-educated women who are so often deciding to refuse vaccines, and now she just has to do damage control as best she can. Sort of like the author of Your Baby's Best Shot, who lies about VPDs and shills for vaccines through a whole book, while in the first chapter she tries to establish rapport with mothers afraid of vaccine reactions by saying that her baby at three months screamed inconsolably on the day of her first DTaP vaccine. She screamed for maybe half an hour, but in that half hour the mother was terrified, thinking she might have irreparably damaged her by permitting the vaccine. But then the baby stopped screaming, the vaccine encephalitis wasn't for that long, no harm was done. I have asked her how she feels about those of us whose babies reacted by screaming for far longer than half an hour, in my baby's case, she screamed for four days and nights reacting to the hep-B vaccine at birth, given without permission, and was later diagnosed with autism. But that kind of question is outside their propaganda bubble, and she had no answer for me but raging insults.

Biss is the same. I wrote here over a month ago that Biss had mentioned her son's food allergies, that I thought revealed a vaccine reaction. That's what causes food allergies, which didn't exist before hypodermic injections began in the late 19th century. There is no doubt that he reacted to vaccines. But that completely blows apart the foundation of the argument she was engaged to promote with dreamy, poetic philosophical reflections and metaphors. Of COURSE she has to wax indignant at this perceived violation of her and her son's privacy. But how vile to use her son to promote her agenda pushing vaccines, and then to scream foul when her son's outcome instead shows EXACTLY why parents should reject vaccines. How dishonest, how contemptible! Margulis has done the world a favor by revealing her foul play, I just wish it were a requirement that a mention of it be made on the dust cover of On Immunity.

Eula Biss is a hypocrite.

Eula Biss omitted the HepB vaccine for her child? What a hypocrite to be preaching for the vaccine schedule!!!


If you write a whole; darn book - and writing makes you have to think - well it is suppose to according to all those belonging to the Prichard society that pushed the big education reforms in Kentucky back in the 90s make her have a bunch of epiphany moments.

Instead, heeee,heee, heeee as Dan Olmstead says - she has driven logical, thinking people bananas - and that is a good scientific expression after what we here have been through.

And others around her are sinister indeed, cutting off "FAIR" arguments, statements, and thoughts on the "SUBJECT" Her child's body gheesh - she opened it up did she not? Yes she did- I will answer that question --

She is talking about my children's bodies after all - is she not? Yes, she is. She is talking out her butt about my family's seizure disorder -was already there "acquired" mitcondria diorder straight from Emory Clinic!

Calling Out the Hypocrites

If Eula Biss comments here, I would love for her to explain her very FIRST 2 SENTENCES of her essay, "Sentimental Medicine: Why We still Fear Vaccines" ( I would really like her to explain how they are not outright lies.

She wrote, "My son is vaccinated, but there is one immunization on the standard schedule he did not receive. This was meant to be his very first shot, the hepatitis B vaccine administered to most infants immediately after birth."

ONE immunization? No, the hepatitis B shot is given THREE TIMES in the first 6 months of life.

Her son isn't missing ONE immunization, he is missing THREE. AND HE STILL HAD NOT GOTTEN THOSE SHOTS BY KINDERGARTEN, when that essay was written.

How dare she preach to other parents that they should follow the recommended schedule when she did not AND CONTINUES NOT TO? How dare she preach that we should protect others for the sake of herd immunity when she did not? She writes that she received blood transfusions immediately after birth, which could have affected her own hepatitis B status, nursed her baby--and still sends him off to kindergarten where he (supposedly) could potentially infect other innocent children.

Does she realize that her son would actually be classified as "unvaccinated?" Does she realize that other mothers who have opted out of the hepatitis B vaccine have had their children kicked out of pediatric practices, who publicly proclaim that they will not "accept" any children not 100% vaccinated according to CDC recommended schedule? Does she know that at least one mother who questioned the birth dose of hep B vaccine had her newborn taken away? (

Even if she were to "catch up" her son on vaccines so that he is (supposedly) fully immunized, HER SON DID NOT HAVE THOSE VACCINES GIVEN ON SCHEDULE STARTING AT BIRTH, WHEN THEY WERE MOST LIKELY TO CAUSE ADVERSE REACTION.

How is it possible that so many are listening to her, when she did not and DOES NOT practice what she preaches?

What a contrast between her and Jennifer Margulis.

Jennifer Margulis: "My children are fully vaccinated, but I defend the right of others to decide for their own children which medical interventions are necessary, safe, effective, and when they should be given."

Eula Biss: "I withheld vaccines for my own child because I was concerned about safety, but I urge everyone else to vaccinate on schedule. Because herd immunity."

I expect that next, we will find out that Paul Offit and Arthur Caplan did not vaccinate their own children.

Jenny Allan

From above :-
Bliss - "in fact, two doctors encouraged me to vaccinate my son despite his allergy and he has since been vaccinated against the flu every fall. (All this is in my book, though you may not have read that far.)"

Dan - "Similarly, discussing her child’s intolerance to an ingredient in the flu shot and her discussion with her doctor about whether he should receive it is also completely appropriate."

I believe there are 'egg free' vaccines available, which I assume Bliss's son received after his allergy was identified by her doctor. I HOPE Bliss advised parents accordingly in her book, since egg allergies can be dangerous.

Of course this does not explain how Bliss's son became sensitised to eggs in the first place. Earlier vaccines are a distict possibility.

Bob Moffitt

"....two doctors encouraged me to vaccinate my son despite his allergy(eggs)and he has since been vaccinated against the flu every fall."

A quick read of "Vaccine Excipient and Media Summary" ..sub titled .. "Excipients included in US Vaccines by vaccines" .. reveals the ingredients of NINE flu vaccines .. of which SIX include "egg protein" among the incipients.

Common sense suggests someone with a diagnosed "egg allergy" .. should be very careful in avoiding the SIX annual flu vaccines that contain "egg protein".

Dan Burns

Maybe Eula Biss will comment?

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