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Words From Wiser: Seven Decades of Vaccinations

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The recent “world health” situation less than affectionately known as Covid 19 Coronavirus, or just “The Virus” has once again pitted science and medical prudence against conjecture, personal beliefs and/or rationalization, and has created a divide between the “will and did”, and “won’t and didn’t”.

As a person in his 7th decade, I have been vaccinated, inoculated, poked, stabbed and punctured probably well over 100 times, sometimes willingly and voluntarily. Sometimes, I was not given a choice as I was pushed into the “marching line”, past the “Inoculators”, in bootcamp upon joining the military.

Over those 75 years I have lived and experienced three of the most notable major epidemics warranting mass vaccinations. We did not always go cheerfully, but we went.

I don’t recall ever feeling that my rights had been violated, or my freedoms were stolen. It was explained to us what we were doing, and why. The sufferings of diseases like Polio were examples of the day and most of us knew someone that had been afflicted. Measles was a disease where herd immunity was unintentionally attempted when in my youthful days nearly everyone under the age of 15 got the disease and spread it as the contagion that it was.

Polio, Smallpox and Measles are the diseases of my youth, and all three have been eradicated, or nearly so as measles has seen a mild resurgence. But that was not accomplished until mass vaccinations had nearly everyone inoculated and protected. These diseases did not “pop up” overnight as our current virus did, but rather, had long histories.

The first Polio epidemic occurred in Vermont in 1894 with 132 cases. By 1916 the disease had grown to more than 27000 cases in New York City alone, with 6000 deaths. By the 1950’s this was one of the most serious and debilitating diseases, especially affecting children. The first medical treatment was the Salk Vaccine, which went through exhaustive testing. This was followed by the Sabin medication which was administered orally and those of us of the proper age can recall the “2 drops” of the medicine on a sugar cube. By 1979 the virus was completely eradicated in the US. 

Smallpox, is a disease that was centuries old with historical “similar” traces discovered present in Mummies over 3000 years old. The first successful vaccination test was conducted in the early 1800’s, but the disease didn’t gain worldwide attention until the 1950’s. It was essentially eradicated in North America by 1952 but worldwide mass vaccinations were hampered by cost and lack of coordination and commitment, and delayed until the 70’s. It was declared eradicated worldwide in 1980.

Measles was first identified as a significant disease in 1912 when its occurrences began to be recorded. Over the first 10 years of the recording, there were about 6000 deaths per year. The vaccine became available in 1963. The rate of infection in a person’s first 15 years, as noted above, declined rapidly but the “continued rate of continuous disease transmission lasted until the year 2000. Since then, there have been a few spikes of its contagion, primarily due to refusal to vaccinate among certain segments of the population.

The above brief histories show how slowly the United States and the world in general reacts to, and gains control of, an epidemic or pandemic situation. 50 years ago, or so, we did not have the means for rapid communication, access to our wealth of scientific information, or the mobilization ability that we have today.

As of June 2nd  of this year, we in the United States have suffered over 590,000 reported deaths and 33,156,000 virus infections. On June 2nd there were 16,824 infections and 606 deaths.

It seems that we have started to turn the corner on gaining control of the situation, but it begs the question, how much more rapidly could we have reached this point if we ALL responded to the safety recommendations, followed the protocols, and believed in the science and health organizations rather than rely on rumors, and misguided “perceptions”.

Sadly, politics, skepticism, and mis-belief played a more significant role in the actions of many.  If those rationalizations persist, this situation is going to drag on and hang around far longer than need be. Those people refusing the vaccinations today may very well be the kindling for the fires of infection, if, as does the flu, there is a resurgence again this winter.

I have so often heard the statements like; “I got it and it was no big deal”, or “Young people are not as apt to die if they get it”. My answer to them has always been, “What about your mother or father, or your grandparents? Don’t you feel an obligation to help the rest of us protect them?”

My closing thought and admonition to the non-believers, or misguided believers of an alternative truth is: “Help us be the start of the end rather than the end of the start”.

Chuck Wiser, 6/3/2021

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