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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating story, now very topical, well told by an articulate expert
Extraordinary story about a fascinating and frightening disease lucidly related with accessible expertise and knowledge. A great read for anyone - praticularly Rotarians involved with the worldwide campaign to rid the world of this illness - who has an interest in science and medicine. This is a 'warts and all' account of the characters involved and gives terrific insight...
Published 8 months ago by S. F. Buckley

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars INTERESTING BUT A BIT TECHNICAL
My interest in polio began in 1947 when I was a victim! This is the second book I have come across giving a history of the disease, its effects and countermeasures. I found it a bit technical - it outstripped my medical knowledge fairly frequently. Some more human interest would have suited my particular needs. The other book (A Summer Plague: Polio and its Survivors) was...
Published 10 months ago by Mr. Peter Mitchell


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating story, now very topical, well told by an articulate expert, 17 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Paralysed with Fear: The Story of Polio (Hardcover)
Extraordinary story about a fascinating and frightening disease lucidly related with accessible expertise and knowledge. A great read for anyone - praticularly Rotarians involved with the worldwide campaign to rid the world of this illness - who has an interest in science and medicine. This is a 'warts and all' account of the characters involved and gives terrific insight into how scientific discoveries are really made and progress is achieved rather than the bland and simplified accounts we often see.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars INTERESTING BUT A BIT TECHNICAL, 1 Sep 2013
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Mr. Peter Mitchell "kernowpete" (Truro, Cornwall, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Paralysed with Fear: The Story of Polio (Hardcover)
My interest in polio began in 1947 when I was a victim! This is the second book I have come across giving a history of the disease, its effects and countermeasures. I found it a bit technical - it outstripped my medical knowledge fairly frequently. Some more human interest would have suited my particular needs. The other book (A Summer Plague: Polio and its Survivors) was more my cup of tea.
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6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nicely written, but the author has a prior agenda and the book is significantly biased, 10 Aug 2013
By 
Edward Hooper (Bridgwater, Somerset, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Paralysed with Fear: The Story of Polio (Hardcover)
Professor Williams is a decent writer, and this book is generally well-written. However, the praise ends there.

Although much of "Paralysed with Fear" is a readable medical history of poliomyelitis, the book comes across as morally dishonest, mainly because Gareth Williams has a prior agenda. It is run through, like Brighton Rock, with a saccharine-flavoured propaganda message, which is "Trust your doctors. Vaccines are good for you."

Let me immediately stress that I am neither a vaccine sceptic, nor a member of the "the anti-vaccination movement", as Williams describes it. The great majority of vaccines are safe, and they generally do an enormous amount of good for the health and well-being of the human race. But occasional vaccines are unsafe (or even dangerous), and to ignore or deny this, as Professor Williams does, represents an irresponsible over-simplification of medical history.

Let me take an example from Chapter 8 of his book, entitled "Dead or Alive". It tells the story of two experimental polio vaccines that were produced in 1934-35, which ended up in direct competition with each other. There was a killed polio vaccine developed by Maurice Brodie and a live attenuated polio vaccine developed by John Kolmer. Each vaccine had been tested in monkeys and seemed to be safe for humans, at which point they were both rushed into large-scale human trials involving just over 10,000 American children. It turned out that both vaccines were intrinsically flawed and unsafe. That made by Brodie paralysed three children, of whom one died. The vaccine made by Kolmer paralysed ten children, of whom five died. Both vaccines were withdrawn and both doctors suffered public disgrace, although they were allowed to continue practising.

For most of the chapter, Williams tells this powerful story well, and much of his account seems balanced. But then the final two paragraphs reveal his true position. He states that a month after a critique of the trials was published in "Science", the same journal carried a report of a turf war between red squirrels and gray squirrels in which the former were said to be leaping onto the backs of the latter from 15 feet above, on occasion castrating them. "It is best left to the reader to decide whether there are any parallels with what happened to Brodie and Kolmer", Williams concludes. Apart from being a silly and facile metaphor, this powerfully reveals that Williams is more concerned with the disgrace suffered by the two ambitious doctors than with the lives of their innocent victims, and of those they left behind.

At this point, let me add that I have a personal interest in "Paralysed with Fear", for I too am attacked in its pages and, moreover, attacked unfairly. Let me explain some of the background.

I am the author of "The River", a book published in 1999 by Little Brown in the US and by Allen Lane/ Penguin in the UK. The book offers substantial documentary evidence supporting the hypothesis that the AIDS pandemic began as a direct result of the 1957-1960 testing of an experimental oral polio vaccine (OPV) called CHAT on nearly a million persons in the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi [now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Burundi]. The first instances of pandemic HIV-1 and AIDS to appear in the world occurred in the same towns and villages where CHAT had been administered a few years earlier, a correlation which is highly significant from a statistical perspective. The earliest two samples of HIV-1 known to man both come from the Congolese capital of Leopoldville and date from 1959 and 1960, two years after CHAT vaccinations of all age groups started in the country, and one year after a mass vaccination of children occurred in that city. (Interestingly, there was then a gap of 16 years before the next earliest sample of HIV-1 was obtained in 1976, also from the DRC.) The CHAT vaccination team was based at Stanleyville (now Kisangani) in the Congo, and ten miles away in the bush the same team was operating the largest chimpanzee camp the world had then seen, known as Lindi Camp. Officially the chimps were needed to test the safety of CHAT vaccine; but the sparse records that have survived show that in reality no more than 40 were used for that purpose. However, over 400 further chimpanzees from Lindi Camp were sacrificed, and my hypothesis in The River was that their kidneys might have been used to provide cells in which to grow CHAT polio vaccine. [Being based on viruses, all vaccines need cells in which to grow, but the cells used for making most polio vaccines in the 1950s were from macaques, a type of Asian monkey. Macaques are not naturally infected with any virus resembling HIV-1. By contrast, common chimpanzees are infected in the wild with a simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) which is the direct ancestor of HIV-1, the pandemic AIDS virus.]

The River stirred some significant debate, and moved the Royal Society in London to stage a two-day meeting entitled "The Origins of HIV and the AIDS Epidemic". A key agenda of the meeting was to analyse the hypothesis put forward in my book, but when the meeting was finally staged in September 2000 it became clear that it had been set up with the express purpose of trying to dispose of the OPV theory. Both the developers of CHAT vaccine (professors Hilary Koprowski and Stanley Plotkin) appeared at the meeting, and made sweeping statements asserting that the OPV hypothesis was false. However, as I soon came to discover, many of the statements made by these two doctors (and others) at the meeting were untrue, or else represented attempts to obfuscate the history of what had happened.

At the meeting, and in the years following a series of studies have been put forward which claim to have "disproved" or "refuted" the OPV hypothessis. Each such study is scientifically flimsy, and the claims of refutation are universally unfounded. For instance, samples of the vaccine released by Koprowski were tested and found to be free of chimpanzee DNA and chimpanzee viruses. What was not made clear, however, was that none of these vaccines had ever been anywhere near Africa. The vaccine batches that were used in the Congo were prepared locally in Stanleyville in chimpanzee cells, and it is these vaccine batches that need to be tested. (Although some batches were sent back to Koprowski's institution, the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, none of these have ever been released for testing.) Other alleged "disproofs" of the OPV theory relate to the estimated age of HIV-1, and to the sub-species of chimpanzees which carry the ancestral virus. On my "aidsorigins" web-site, I have demonstrated why none of these arguments is sound, for all are based either on inappropriate models, or else on assumptions that can be proven to be false. Since 2000, whenever I have written a letter to "Nature" or "Science" pointing out the shortcomings of the latest "refutation", my contribution has been rejected. What has been published on this topic in the medical literature since 2000 represents a quite shameful abandonment of scientific balance and impartiality, and strongly suggests that because of its political and economic implications the OPV theory (proposing that the West started the AIDS pandemic) has now been blacklisted by certain very powerful governments.

Now fast forward to 2013. Recently, five significant books have been published, each of which has devoted a section to the claim that the OPV theory has been disproved. The same old redundant arguments are rolled out, and it is significant that although the authors frequently quote past statements of mine (or else statements made on "aidsorigins.com", the web-site that I have maintained since 2004), not one of them has approached me to seek my views on this debate.

In February 2013, three or four months before the publication of "Paralysed with Fear: The Story of Polio", Professor Williams (who, like the others, made no attempt to contact me for an interview) e-mailed to ask me for a photo to include in his book. In his email he wrote that "The River" was "clearly an important and interesting ingredient" in the history of polio, and that I was "a key part of the history of the disease and [that he would] like, if possible, to recognise that contribution" by including my photograph in his book. I asked him to show me a copy of the pages that referred to me, and he sent me a chapter of text which included what he apparently believed to be balanced commentary about the origins of AIDS. "I appreciate that this is an area in which opinion is still very much divided and hope that I've done a fair job in describing a lively and important debate", he wrote.

To give some idea of the context, the chapter he sent me was entitled "Conspiracy theory", with the section about the OPV theory being entitled "The big one". What he wrote was peppered with factual errors and dripping with scientific bias. Many of the opinions were direct copies of statements made in the past by the two key developers of this vaccine: Hilary Koprowski and Stanley Plotkin. He even included a direct quote that the Royal Society had removed from one of Stanley Plotkin's papers given at the 2000 conference, on the grounds that it was probably libellous.

Professor Williams, who turned out to be a recent Dean of the Medical School at the University of Bristol, and a career scientist working in the philosophy group at that school, was approaching retirement, and had clearly taken to writing "general reader" histories of different diseases for the publisher, Palgrave Macmillan.

During the email exchange that took place between us over the next two months, Williams showed that he was a self-confident exponent of the English language, but also that he was the sort of superficially charming and comfy scientist who believes that scientists are right precisely because they are scientists. He had clearly interviewed professors Koprowski and Plotkin, and he reported their words (many of which were false or misleading) as if they were tablets of stone from Mount Ararat. His bias was confirmed in the Acknowledgements section in the published book, in which he thanks Dr Koprowski (now deceased) for his "wisdom", and expresses his "deep gratitude" to the "expert" Dr Plotkin "for helping me to navigate between fact and fiction".

I find the six pages he writes about the origins debate excruciating, not least because they read as if they have been written by Plotkin himself. The original version as sent to me contained 11 clumsy factual errors in six pages of text, and represented straightforward and simplistic propaganda for the anti-OPV lobby. I wrote back robustly, explaining that I was appalled by the bias of the writing, alluding to the errors and falsehoods in his text and inviting him to rewrite. Williams wrote back, offering the change of a single word. At this point I contacted his editor at Palgrave Macmillan, and pointed out that Professor Williams had been warned that he was writing falsehoods about me and the OPV theory, but was apparently unwilling to withdraw or correct them. After a few weeks I was sent a rewritten version that dropped the odious chapter title, toned down some of the language, and corrected a few of the errors. The text that remains is still heavily biased, but is just about acceptable.

Although I suspected it, I was not sure if Professor Williams was a man with an agenda, so I delved a bit further on line and eventually found the answer. In October 2012, he delivered the Milroy Lecture at the Royal College of Physicians in London, on the subject of the "the anti-vaccination movement". The flier about the lecture explained his position: "The fact the anti-vaccination lobby has survived into the 21st century is....evidence of a catastrophic failure of public confidence in science, and....this is largely the result of the medical profession's inability to communicate important public-health messages." So, Williams is a shining knight crusading for the cause of vaccination. What a shame that if he is representing such a fine lobby, which undoubtedly has saved many millions of lives, he compromises his arguments by basing an entire section of his book on sloppy mistakes, falsehoods and calumny. He is a pro-vaccination activist, one who seemingly believes that all vaccination is safe and that those who say otherwise are bad people.

Actually, Professor Williams' intervention in this debate is rather revealing. Of course people like Stanley Plotkin will be extremely happy to be able to point to what they will doubtless claim is "an independent book" that presents my work as if I am a "conspiracy theorist". This is a useful all-purpose tar-brush term (a bit like "politically correct", "racially prejudiced" or "holocaust-denying") that is often used to discredit individuals whom an uneasy establishment deems to be "loose cannons". If such terms are correctly used then they have powerful meanings; if they are incorrectly or gratuitously used, then they are scurrilous and may even be libellous.

I believe that most vaccines are of enormous benefit to the human race, but that does not require me to defend or overlook bad vaccines. I am not proposing a "conspiracy theory" in the sense in which this phrase is normally understood, that of a far-fetched flight of fancy. I am revealing what overwhelming documentary evidence indicates to be a conspiracy about one particular experimental vaccine that was made in the 1950s and which was catastrophic for humans (and especially for African humans). By contrast, Professor Williams, with his Disney-esque view of science, appears to be actively participating in a cover-up. I am fairly certain that Professor Plotkin must be pleased by Williams' inaccurate contribution to the history of science, just as the late Professor Koprowski must have been. The purpose of Williams' text, quite clearly, is to initiate a version of history in which the OPV theory (about which I have written with great care and restraint in the last 14 years) is now linked to the scurrilous concept of "conspiracy theory". It is a shameful attempt to discredit the theory, and my work, using false claims and wobbly arguments. In short, Williams is using classic smoke-and-mirrors tactics in a bid to blacken my reputation.

Near the end of his section on the OPV theory, Williams writes that in his final years, Hilary Koprowski's "resilience was remarkable. But he still preferred not to talk about 'The River', and how it poisoned his life." (The latter claim is ascribed to an anonymous source, represented only by initials.) Let me respond by stating that any poisoning that occurred was done by Koprowski himself, when he falsely reported the work he did in Africa. All I have done and am doing is to reveal some of the places where he told falsehoods.

WIlliams adds his own final words which, within the context of his attack on me, clearly represent a further attempt to disparage. "When 'The River' was published in 1999, Hooper claimed that he was '95 per cent persuaded' of the merits of the vaccine theory; by 2006, his index of persuasion had risen to 99.9%". He lifted the latter comment from my own web-site, even if the source he cites makes no mention of it. I think it is shameful that despite my repeatedly pointing Williams towards specific essays on "aidsorigins.com" during our email dialogue earlier this year, Williams makes no reference to any of this material. It is apparent that he has no interest in reading, let alone reporting, my side of the argument. Neither does he attempt to explain why I was so much more convinced of the OPV argument in 2006 than I was in 1999. (The main reason was that in the interim I had discovered ineluctable evidence showing that what I had hypothesised in 1999 was true. Koprowski and his helpers did indeed arrange for CHAT vaccine to be prepared locally in Stanleyville in chimpanzee cells, and administered to nearly one million Africans, and some of the chimpanzees involved were from the very sub-species that is naturally infected with the direct ancestor of the AIDS virus, HIV-1.)

In an attempt to appear guileless, Professor Williams tells me he hopes that what he has written in his book about the origins-of-AIDS debate is "fair", but in reality it is horribly one-sided. In my eyes, the book earns two stars because most of it is nicely written. It earns no more than that because the author has a prior agenda, and because his version of medical history is significantly and dangerously biased in a number of places.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Paralysed with Fear: The Story of Polio, 27 Aug 2013
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This is a scholarly book, charting many significant developments and landmarks in the story of Polio. Having had Polio back in 1947, I found many of the references to treatments familiar and, to some extent, disturbing. Since many of us are now suffering from the late effects of Polio, also called Post Polio Syndrome, I found the lack of detailed reference to this to be a deficiency in what I regard as an excellent reference to the subject. Nevertheless, it makes fascinating reading.
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Paralysed with Fear: The Story of Polio
Paralysed with Fear: The Story of Polio by Gareth Williams (Hardcover - 27 Jun 2013)
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