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Peter J. Hotez, The Deadly Rise of Anti-Science: A Scientist’s Warning.  Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2023, 218 pp.  $24.95.  ISBN 978-1-4214-4722-3


Reviewed by: Alan J. Lippman, M.D.

June 28, 2024

History is replete with examples of reactionary rejection of scientific advances—think of Galileo, persecuted for his struggle to gain acceptance of Copernicus’s heliocentric theory,1 and Semmelweis, whose advocacy of handwashing, demonstrated to reduce obstetrical mortality, was rejected by the medical community, leading to the deterioration of his own mental health and perhaps ultimately to his death.2   

The recent pandemic of Covid-19 has provoked a strong and persistent anti-vaccine movement and introduced an unwelcome anti-science element into American politics.  In this concise and compellingly written book, the renowned microbiologist and co-director of the Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development, Peter Hotez, tellingly describes his painful personal experiences as a target of antagonism from anti-vaccine activists, and the dismaying effect this action has had on his family and his colleagues.  

Hotez, a professor of pediatrics and molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, is also the Texas Children’s Hospital chair in tropical pediatrics. He and his research team have developed vaccines for such diseases as hookworm and schistosomiasis, among others, including SARS and MERS.  In addition, Hotez’ team at Texas Children’s Hospital has developed a unique, low-cost and patent-free Covid-19 vaccine technology, since transferred to local vaccine manufacturers, to produce tens of millions of doses of vaccines for international distribution.  He has received awards and recognition from numerous prominent professional organizations and, in 2021, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Despite these outstanding accomplishments, Hotez has been targeted for harassment by anti-vaccine activists and anti-science politics.  Hotez claims that he and others, including his colleagues Anthony Fauci, Paul Offit, and Peter Daszak, have been attacked via social media and personal confrontation by certain elected officials, journalists, the news media, and even fellow scientists who espouse conspiratory disinformation and misinformation about such phenomena as the origin of SARS-CoV2 (the causative virus) and the alleged hazards of vaccines against Covid-19 and other diseases. 

Moreover, Hotez claims that more than 200,000 Americans have died needlessly because of defiant anti-vaccine efforts and the refusal by some to accept vaccines proven to be safe and effective.

Hotez explores the political ramifications and social harms associated with the anti-vaccine and anti-science movements, but importantly offers potentially meaningful strategies to overcome the threats to biomedical science that represent impediments to a healthy country and a healthy world.

1  Michael Sharratt, Galileo: Decisive Innovator (Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers, 1994).

2  Gy. Gortvay and I. Zoltán, Semmelweis: His Life and Work (Budapest, Hungary: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1968).

Acknowledgement:  I wish to thank Vin Cirillo, PhD for his helpful comments on this review.

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