Books

Read an excerpt from ER doctor Daniel Kalla's new thriller Lost Immunity

The thriller is about a mysterious new illness wreaking havoc on Seattle — and a new vaccine is blamed for it. Lost Immunity will be available on May 4, 2021.

Lost Immunity will be available on May 4, 2021

Daniel Kalla is an emergency room physician in Vancouver who writes fiction inspired by real-life pandemics. (Photos by Kathryn)

Daniel Kalla is an emergency room doctor, as well as an international bestselling author of 10 books. He has a knack for writing eerily prescient thrillers.

His 2019 novel We All Fall Down explored what a modern-day pandemic would look like — months before we knew about COVID-19.

His latest thriller, Lost Immunity, is about vaccines. In the novel, a dangerous bacteria has caused local outbreaks around the world. When it hits Seattle, the local public health officer asks a pharmaceutical company working on the vaccine to release it to the city early.

At first, the controversial plan works. But when people start dying from an even more terrible and more mysterious illness, the vaccine gets blamed. Can they figure out what's really happening before it's too late?

Lost Immunity will be available on May 4, 2021.

You can read an excerpt from Lost Immunity below.


It's been a good streak by Pacific Northwest standards, Lisa thinks as raindrops spit across her windshield. It hasn't rained for over two weeks, which isn't that unusual for August. Unlike the rest of the year, when a week without precipitation in Seattle would be newsworthy, the summer often brings protracted dry spells. Still, Lisa's mood reflects the charcoal skies above. It's been a while since anyone died in front of her eyes, which is disturbing enough, but Zeke's case also represents the escalation of the outbreak that she had dreaded: community spread.

Lisa parks in the garage below her office and heads upstairs, hoping to reach her desk without having to speak to anyone. But Tyra stops her the moment she steps into the main office.

"We found him!" Tyra waves a piece of paper triumphantly at her.

"You found whom?" Lisa asks.

"Alex Stephanopoulos."

Lisa shrugs, unable to share in her colleague's obvious enthusiasm.

"Alex happens to be Grace Brown's boyfriend," Tyra says.

"The second victim?" Lisa says, perking up.

"I'm thinking we need to renumber the victims now. Grace was the second person to land in the ER and, sadly, the second to die. But I think she might actually be our very first victim."

"Because?"

"Her boyfriend is Patient Zero."

Lisa grabs the page from Tyra's hand. "Are you saying this Alex . . ."

"Stephanopoulos."

"Connects back to Iceland?"

Tyra points to the page. Lisa looks down at the image of five people, two adults and three kids, posing in front of a towering narrow waterfall. "That's Skógafoss—" Tyra exaggerates the sh sounds.

"Or, however the hell you pronounce that mouthful."

"The boyfriend's family was in Iceland recently?"

"Less than two weeks ago, if you trust Instagram."

"How did you figure that out?"

"The nurses went through all of the victims' social media accounts. Stacy found a bunch of pictures of Alex on Grace's Instagram page, including a few from Iceland. The parents had no idea Grace and Alex were even dating. That's why no one made the connection sooner."

"Brilliant work, Ty. The whole staff." Lisa briefly clasps her palms together under her chin. "Is this Alex sick?"

Tyra shakes her head. "Just spoke to the mom. Alex is fine. And he never got sick over there or since he came home."

"You're convinced he's the one who brought the bacteria back from Reykjavík?"

"Yolanda is on her way to collect swabs from Alex's mouth, nose, and skin. The bacterial cultures should give us confirmation within a day." Tyra grimaces. "But, come on. Alex would've been kissing Grace just last week. What are the chances she had two separate connections to Iceland?"

"So it did start from an asymptomatic carrier, after all." Lisa sighs. 

"First, the spread into the community. Now this. Just when you think it couldn't get much worse."

"Lisa, haven't I taught you anything?" Angela Chow bellows from somewhere behind her. "It can always get worse."

Lisa, haven't I taught you anything?' Angela Chow bellows from somewhere behind her. 'It can always get worse.

"Apparently," Lisa says as she turns around. Angela's complexion is even paler this morning.

Lisa leads the two women inside her office and closes the door.

She gestures to them to have a seat and then sits down across the desk from them. "I just came from Harborview," she says, and goes on to describe Zeke's cardiac arrest.

"He got antibiotics immediately?" Angela asks.

"Within minutes of reaching the ER," Lisa says. "Sounds like it was only an hour or two after he felt the first flicker of a headache."

"This is as deadly as bugs come."

"And it's spread into the community now."

"Even more reason to vaccinate."

Tyra's forehead creases. "With what? That experimental vaccine you tried to convince the drug company to release?"

Lisa sinks down into her own chair. "Neissovax."

Angela glances at Tyra. "You happen to know of any other effective vaccines?"

"Still unproven outside of the lab, though," Lisa says. "They did emphasize that."

"Those pharmaceutical types are paid to be overcautious." Angela shakes her head. "I did a little reading up on my own. Neissovax shows impressive immunogenicity."

"What does it matter?" Tyra looks from Angela to Lisa. "You told me they're not willing to release it."

"Maybe we just need to apply more pressure. What if the CDC were to weigh in?" Lisa motions to Angela. "You do seem to have a rapport with Dr. Moyes."

"Alistair and I do go back," Angela says, but there's no affection in her tone.

"Can you get him to apply some pressure for us through the CDC?"

Angela considers it for a moment. "Maybe we don't need his help."

"What are you talking about?"

Margaret Atwood is perhaps Canada's most celebrated writer and the author of far more than her fair share of dystopian literature. CBC Sudbury host Waub Rice's book Moon of the Crusted Snow tells the story of an apocalypse descending on an Anishinaabe community. And Daniel Kalla is an emergency room physician in Vancouver who writes fiction inspired by real-life pandemics. 13:03

"Jesus." Angela rolls her eyes. "I honestly thought I taught you better, Lisa. If people are blocking your way, and you can't get past them on either side..."

Lisa chuckles. "Then go over their heads."

"Yup."

"Over the executive VP's head? That would be the CEO, wouldn't it?"

"It would."

"Why not?" Lisa picks up her phone and dials her assistant's line. As soon as Ingrid answers, Lisa says, "Can you please try to track down the CEO of Delaware Pharmaceuticals for me? And tell him it's urgent."

Ten minutes later, Ingrid buzzes back announcing that the CEO, Peter Moore, is waiting on the other line. Lisa picks up on speakerphone.

She introduces Tyra and Angela and then says, "Thank you so much for taking our call."

"Anytime, Dr. Dyer," Moore says. "Nathan and Fiona both spoke highly of you."

Lisa finds it telling that someone as busy as the CEO of a major pharmaceutical company recognizes her name. "I assume you're aware of the situation here in Seattle."

"Nathan briefed me," Moore says. "But even if he hadn't, I would've known. After all, your outbreak is making national news."

"And the situation has worsened since your people left."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"Thank you, but we don't really need your sympathy," Lisa says.

"What we do need is access to your company's new vaccine."


Adapted from Lost Immunity by Daniel Kalla ©2021. Published by Simon & Schuster.

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