Summary of "Sentimental Medicine" by Eula Biss

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • The Connection of Poverty and Vaccination
  • Historical Approach to Vaccination
  • Bliss' Experience with Vaccination and Inoculation
  • Bliss' Thoughts on Herd Immunity
  • Vaccination and Its Impact on Immunization
  • Conclusion


As Eula Biss begins her journey in "Sentimental Medicine" encountering different aspects of adventures in her way that hanged her life to some extent, she is bound to state the facts and evidence as she continues to reach the conclusion prompting that, "If we imagine the actions of...kind of banking of immunity." As Biss statrs of with the history of vaccinations about hoe vaccinations were developed from aborted feuses and were first tested in Nazi concentration campsgoinf further about it, not being vegan she also argues that chances of contracting a disease are higher for a vaccinated person living in a largely unvaccinated area than for an unvaccinated community. She explains vaccinations of an individual.

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The Connection of Poverty and Vaccination

One of the key terms that are central to the authors’ argument is “vaccination” which is a preparation of killed microorganisms, living attenuated organisms, or living fully virulent organisms that are administered to produce or artificially increase immunity to a particular disease. But she also prompts out on her anxieties for which Raj 2 she was not at all ready. Then, Biss rephrases vaccines are metaphors saying, “if popular literature...pollution.”

When Biss mentions about the outbreak of smallpox in 1898, she justifies that, “some people believed that white were not susceptible to the disease,” where she talk about the classifcation of smallpox based on color saying it was called “nigger itch” and again if associated with the immigrants, “Italian itch” or “Mexican bump”. Then Biss shifts gears on how human bodies can be threat regardless of their location around the whole as everyone has the same structure and purpose. When she talks about the unvaccinated boy who went to San Diego, she reflects the case of how a small disease can be spread and later one has to face the consequences as mentioned by her, “ ...infected two siblings...hospitalized”. Biss trying to entangle the situation points out on the facts based on evidences in 2004 by the analysis of CDC - Centers of Disea Control and Prevention, saying, “ more than undervaccinated children to be white and to live in house holds with an income of $75,000...poverty” including her own life as an example as well. “Vaccination works,”...minority.

Historical Approach to Vaccination

Talking on her father’s contrary she explains the meaning about what her father meant was, “the minority of the population that is particularly...them. Then she turns towards the historical appraoch of it saying, “This radical is maintained.” Biss here bring out the history of medicine on context to vaccinations being a precursor to morderm medicine and not a product of it. She further states that it’s roots are in folk medicine and it’s first practioners were farmers tailing it with a story where meanders along the thought of, “The Milkmaids of England in eighhteenth-century had faces...epidemic. She also talks about the impulsive response of some citizens towards the out break of cowpox in 1774 where an individual himself was a victim of cowpox but used a needle to force pus from a cow’s udder into the arms of his wife and two toddler boys. She mentions about the neighbours being horrified and how soon the wife recovered but the boys had a mild reaction.

Bliss' Experience with Vaccination and Inoculation

When Biss talkes about the word “inoculate” being used to describe virolation, she also mentions about the fact that when Voltire wrote his letter “On Inoculation” in 1735, the primary meaning ...body. Then she moves on to the blood group O negative, stating it being a universal donar and building a connection with her father as he was also a blood donor but slightly giving us a hint on wheather her father was aware of her blood type which was also O negative.

Bliss' Thoughts on Herd Immunity

Another key term used by Biss to support her argument is “herd immunity”(Biss par19) where she states that a general community to a pathogen in a population based on the acquired immunity to it by a high proportion of members over time. The Biss further explains the argument “shared immunity” were she states that all the people in this earth share the same body and along with same immunity due to which they cannot be differentiated with respect to their location. But she mentions about the failure of vaccines inorder to rebuilt the lost immunity of an individual during any disease where she says, “Any given vaccines...immunity”. As said earlier about Biss being able to derive a connection between the blood group O negative with her father, she also mentions about a scare on her father’s left arm from smallpox vaccination half a century ago along with an evidence saying that, that vaccine was responsible for worldwide eradication of smallpox in 1980, but remains far mor dangerous then any vaccine currently.

Vaccination and Its Impact on Immunization

Biss rephrases the fact that smallpox vaccines contain far more protiens, even more than active ingredients we use today where she wraps up her thought stating that the vaccinations her parents got were far mor challenging on immunity system of humans in one does than do the twenty-six immunizations for various different diseases. Biss limelights her prenotions on a Offit Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. As Biss drives through her thoughts, she bring up the degradation of rate of infection as one of the myteries of Hep B immunization being that, “vaccinating only “high-risks” is having sex with just one partner, getting a tatto...had changed”. “Everyone who...identity”. According to the powerful image of the book’s opening pages, Biss tends to reveal herself in the liminal space between one phase and next. As Biss’ son was born during a period of widespread contagious and fear, with H1N1 Pandemic dominating the headlines, a moment in which she saw her own anxieties reflected and magnified in the panic gripping the world outside. “It all became part of the landscape of new motherhood,” she writes, “where ordinary objects like pillows and blankets have the power to kill a newborn.


Diving deep in the history aspect of vaccines incontext to health and medicines, Biss talkes about Benjamin Rush who was one of the fathers of America medicine who bled his patients to, again according to as the writers Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre Englisg put it, “Translyvanian excesses”. Biss mentions about how the doctors began to midwives in the nineteeth century, child birth moved to hospitals and maternal death rate rose. Biss talkes about a “Lancet” study done by Andrew Wakefeild’s where he studies tweleve children with both developmental disorders and intestinal problems which later was said to be falsified that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine might be linked to a behavioral syndrome.

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