Reviews of The Vaccine Race

A real jewel of science history….Wadman’s smooth prose calmly spins a surpassingly complicated story into a real tour de force….Immensely readable. Read More

The New York Times, April 17, 2019

Destined to become a classic of science writing.

Edmund de Waal, best-selling author of The Hare with Amber Eyes, May 1, 2018

Fascinating… this book is so rich in scientific anecdotes, historical detail and quirky characters that I can’t do it justice in a short review. Read More 

The Washington Post, June 23 2017

Wadman’s book reads like a good detective novel….[Her] great strength is her uncanny ability to weave the multiple strands of a complicated story into a coherent narrative. Read More 

David Oshinsky, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Polio: An American Story writing in The FASEB Journal, June 2017

The Vaccine Race scores high on practically every metric that matters…..fascinating, well-written and important. Read More 

Online Review of Books, May 1 2017

Wadman does a superb job of making the technical comprehensible to the lay reader and, more importantly, makes the science come to life by honing in on the brilliant men and women who were driven to create new, life-saving vaccines – and profit from their discoveries. Read More 

The Globe and Mail, March 10, 2017

Marvellous… fascinating… Wadman doesn’t shy away from some very difficult and unpleasant truths… The Vaccine Race bears comparison with Richard Rhodes’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Making of the Atomic Bomb. I can pay no higher compliment to Meredith Wadman and her fine book. Read More 

The Literary Review, March 3, 2017

It is an extraordinary story and Wadman is to be congratulated, not just for uncovering it but for relaying it in such a pacy, stimulating manner. This is a first-class piece of science writing. Read More 

The Observer, February 26, 2017

A riveting tale of scientific infighting, clashing personalities, sketchy ethics, and the transformation of cell biology from a sleepy scientific backwater to a high-stakes arena where vast fortunes are made. Read More 

The Wall Street Journal, February 18, 2017

Riveting… invites comparison with Rebecca Skloot’s 2010 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Read MoreNature, February 9, 2017

A tremendous feat of research and synthesis. Read MoreThe Telegraph, February 6, 2017

A story of human tragedy and greatness, of curiosity and ambition, of turf battles and ethical lapses, and of what we would call today ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ about the use of cells from an aborted fetus. Read MoreThe Dallas Morning News, February 16, 2017

The Vaccine Race brings the reader from the hallowed halls of the Wistar Institute to hospitals for the poor, orphanages, homes for pregnant teenagers, and a women’s prison. Here, young scientists eager to make their mark found experimental research subjects whose caregivers gave consent on their behalf. Acknowledging how shocking these practices seem to us today, Wadman illustrates, without criticism, the hubris of the investigators who believed that their vaccines were safe enough to proceed with human testing (they had been tested extensively in animals, after all). Indeed, a strength of the book is Wadman’s objectivity and lack of judgment regarding research approaches that were typical in their time. Read MoreReview of THE VACCINE RACE by Erica C. Jonlin in Science, January 31, 2017

Wadman, staff writer for Science, depicts the cutthroat competition, ugly politics, brilliant science, and questionable ethics that underscored the research and develop­ment, during the 1960s and’70s, of vac­cines that have protected many millions of Americans from rubella, polio, rabies, and other diseases… An exemplary piece of medical journalism. Read MorePublishers Weekly’s starred review of THE VACCINE RACE, December 12 2016

A dramatic medical history that reveals the progress and the stumbles, the personalities and the rivalries, in the race to find a vaccine for rubella, or German measles. Science magazine writer Wadman, who has a medical degree from Oxford and a journalism degree from Columbia, has long covered the politics of biomedical research. As she makes immediately clear, rubella, like Zika, inflicts terrible damage on babies whose mothers are infected during their pregnancies…..An important story well told, featuring the drama and characters needed to make this a candidate for film adaptation. Read MoreKirkus Reviews’ starred review of THE VACCINE RACE, December 4, 2016

Announcements & News

Audio: Wadman on NPR’s 1A with Joshua Johnson (February 28, 2017)

Audio: Wadman talks about The Vaccine Race with prominent Canadian radio interviewer Anna Maria Tremonti on CBC’s The Current (March 6, 2017)

Article: puts The Vaccine Race on its list of the best summer health and science reading. (June 21, 2017)

Video: Wadman speaks about The Vaccine Race at The Gaithersburg Book Festival. (May 20, 2017)

Article: Stanford Magazine: From Controversy to Cure: A once-vilified Stanford professor was key to the development of the rubella vaccine. Stanford alum Meredith Wadman tells his story in a new book. (May 8, 2017)

Article: Wadman speaks about The Vaccine Race with Eric Armstrong of The New Republic. (May 5, 2017)

Audio: Wadman talks about The Vaccine Race with Sean Moncrieff from The Moncrieff Show on the Irish national radio station, Newstalk (February 9, 2017)

Audio: Ian Williams of the Catskill Review of Books speaks with Meredith Wadman about The Vaccine Race (February 2, 2017)

Article: National Geographic’s Simon Worrall interviews Meredith Wadman about vaccines and The Vaccine Race (February 26, 2017)

Article: “What the Hard Lessons of Rubella Teach Us About a Zika Vaccine,” by Meredith Wadman (February 22, 2017)

Article: National Book Review names The Vaccine Race one of five “hot books that people are talking about this week — or should be.” (February 20, 2017)

Article: Alexia Nader of Kirkus Reviews describes Meredith Wadman’s work writing The Vaccine Race.(February 6, 2017)

Article: Meredith Wadman speaks to Refinery29’s Sarah Jacoby on President Donald Trump’s proposed “vaccine safety commission.” (January 11, 2017)

Article: Publisher’s Weekly names The Vaccine Race one of the top ten science books in its upcoming list. (December 12, 2016)

Video:’s Mary Elizabeth Williams interviews Meredith Wadman about the use of fetal cells to make vaccines that have protected more than 150 million Americans. (February 7, 2017)

Video: Wadman speaks on The Vaccine Race at The American Society for Microbilogy. (February 23, 2017)

Advance Praise for The Vaccine Race

This is a story about the war against disease– a war without end–and the development of enormously important vaccines, but in telling that story, in showing how science works, Meredith Wadman reveals much more. Like all wars, that story includes heroism, risk-taking, persistence, and fighting against the odds, and, like all wars, that story also includes politics, obtuseness, bureaucracy, and fights over money. It’s very well-written and does not oversimplify yet explains clearly even the purely scientific parts of the story. In short, I loved this book.John M. Barry, New York Times bestselling author of The Great Influenza

The Vaccine Race is not just a wonderful, canny, closely observed chronicle of crucial advances in disease and the field of longevity; it is also a work of conscience — a science story with sensibility and soul…. More than any other writer, Wadman is startlingly, utterly lucid about the moral ambiguity of medical endeavor.Peter Petre, New York Times bestselling author and former director of medical coverage and executive editor at Fortune

Meredith Wadman rolls up her sleeves and takes an uncompromising look at the sometimes unethical, often crude, and always rough-and-tumble world of one of the greatest success stories in public health: vaccines. What she finds will no doubt surprise you.Paul A. Offit, MD, author of Pandora’s Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong and Autism’s False Prophets

A gripping story with strong resonance in the age of Zika and Ebola – and a powerful reminder of the ways in which researchers approached the ethics of medical testing only fifty years ago.Henry T. Greely, Director of Stanford’s Center for Law and the Biosciences and author of The End of Sex

The fascinating story of  the scientific battle over — among other important matters–  whether human vaccines should be grown in human or animal cells. The hero of this story is Leonard Hayflick, who favored human cells. Fortunately for all of us, he won out.Stanley M. Gartler, Prof. Emeritus, Medical Genetics, University of Washington

Additional Info

The Vaccine Race has been long-listed for an Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in non fiction. Details about the award can be found here.

The Vaccine Race was one of the five finalists for the 2016 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, administered by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.

Men’s Journal named The Vaccine Race one of its 7 Best Books of February.