coronavirus, Pandemic diary

A pandemic diary: The kids will be all right

Little girl with nurse putting band-aid on her arm.
Photo by CDC on Pexels.com

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.

coronavirus, Covid 19 pandemic, Pandemic diary

A pandemic diary: My passport

April 22, 2021

On sound advice from the experts, I’m not going to show y’all my Covid vaccination card. However, I see no harm in displaying my longstanding personal vaccination passport, ironclad proof that I’ve got the goods. No codes to scan, no factors to verify. Ready? Okay, scroll down a bit.

Dave in favorite French Quarter t-shirt.
Dave’s here!

That’s it. Me, taken at 2:01 pm on 4/23/2021 (full cellphone camera data available on request). It shows I’m alive and healthy, which I might not be without some previous mass vaccination campaigns, none of which became controversial or politicized.

The most important was for polio, which used to paralyze thousands every year, killing some. The peak polio season in the summer triggered some familiar emergency measures: swimming pools and theaters closed and parents kept their children away from parties and playgrounds. Even in the 60s, there were kids who’d been afflicted and were wearing leg braces.

I got the historic Salk vaccine before I was old enough to remember it, but I clearly recall swallowing a sugar cube containing Sabin, the follow-up version, in grade school. We didn’t yet have vaccines for all the common childhood diseases, and I ran the table. I caught mumps when I was about four, followed a few years later by chicken pox, measles, and two bouts with rubella.

A lot of today’s vaccine-hesitant mopes were probably born late enough to escape all this and take their good health for granted. I don’t. I came through without any long-term damage, but one of my mother’s sisters had developmental disabilities because my grandmother was exposed to rubella while pregnant. From 1958 through 1962, the year before the first measles vaccine rolled out, the country averaged over half a million cases and 430 deaths a year. Hundreds of thousands suffered respiratory complications, even encephalitis.

Call me what you will: I’m amazed that we’re hardly even discussing mandatory Covid vaccination. I know you can’t make the horses drink. Still: We had measles under control until anti-vax and religious fanatics opened the door to fresh outbreaks.

Now Connecticut is moving to end the religious exemption to vaccinating kids for school, as New York and several other states have already done. If that’s a public health threat, what about people who deliberately leave themselves, their families, and everyone in their communities at risk of a terrible death?