The word that young children will soon get Covid shots reminds me of when I received my second and final round of polio vaccine. I had the Salk type, the first one approved for the US, when I was too little to remember it. I suspect I didn’t care much for the needle, but that wasn’t a problem in the 1960s with the more effective Sabin, which was given orally on sugar cubes. No red-blooded eight-year-old would turn down one of those.
My mother drove me to the closest vaccination site, where a local radio station happened to be doing a remote broadcast. A smooth-voiced man with a microphone asked me a few questions while a record was playing, then repeated them live on the air. I don’t recall what I told the listeners of WKZO-AM, “590 on your dial,” or the moment I swallowed the cube. (I had no idea I’d someday make my own career in radio either.) The event was simply no big deal, for me or any of my friends and classmates.
Of course, by that time the frightening polio outbreaks of the 50s had ended. We didn’t need masks or social distancing. There were no closed restaurants and theaters, no broken and upended lives, and no debate about whether vaccination was necessary and proper. None. Ever. Zero. Bupkes. Period.
Anybody who claimed “freedom” or “personal choice” as an excuse for sending an unprotected kid to school would’ve been run out of town. There were safety problems with badly prepared batches of Salk, including deaths, but they didn’t stop us from trying to wipe out the disease. People could decline the drug on religious grounds. The congenital loudmouths could write letters to the newspapers and that was about all.
I’m not a parent. I’m not telling anyone how to raise their kids. But I’m damn glad that when I was one, we were sane and civic-minded about public health. If we’d had MMR in those times, my folks would’ve made sure I was first in line. In my childless but humble opinion, the decision should be equally easy now. Take care and be safe.