able/disabled, health

TO BE SHOT? OR NOT?

As of 4/1/21, over 76 Million people have been fully vaccinated in the U.S.

                                    

For me, it was a no-brainer.

When the Salk vaccine to protect against polio was first released, my son received his injection at age four. About ten days after that, the nursery school he attended took the children on a field trip to the Los Angeles Music Center. This was during the 1950s when passengers were not required to wear seatbelts, so the little darlings piled into the car packed in like sardines.    

Approximately two weeks later, three of the nursery school children began exhibiting polio symptoms: fever, headache, neck stiffness, pain in the arms and legs, weakness, vomiting, PARALYSIS.  The nursery school shut down. Not only did the children become infected, but they also passed the virus on to siblings and parents. One victim was a father who had been a dentist. He recovered for a while but was severely affected and could no longer pursue his occupation. He succumbed to the after-effects at an early age.

One day, I accompanied a nursery school mom to visit her son at Rancho Los Amigos, a facility in Southern California that accommodated a large number of iron lungs. For me, it was chilling to see children’s faces protruding from these frightening-looking tanks. For the parents, it must have been devastating.

                   

Iron lungs helped patients breathe. They are now obsolete because world-wide polio has been almost eradicated. Today, ventilators are the go-to device for breathing assistance, especially common during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, our two nursery schoolteachers, who had been in such close contact with the children, felt especially vulnerable. After consulting with their doctors, they received large doses of gamma globulin. This was costly but health experts believed that gamma globulin boosted immune systems, and that might be one way to fight off this crippling disease. When the teachers submitted their medical bills to the nursery school parents, some parents balked at paying for the shots. I couldn’t believe it. These two women put their lives at risk in caring for our children. Why should any parent deny them this protection?

Even though my son had received the Salk vaccine less than ten days before the field trip, I believe that antibodies were already beginning to form in his body, and this spared him.

When I was growing up, poliomyelitis was the summer scourge, and no one could figure out how it was transmitted. Swimming pools were suspect because the numbers of infections rose during the summer. Consequently, public swimming pools shut down if one of the users came down with the disease.

At about 17, I met a boy a year or so older than me. I’ll call him Joe, and at that time he was on the rebound from a girlfriend named Betty. Joe and Betty had been childhood friends and during adolescence their friendship blossomed into romance. Now they had broken up.

Joe was a live wire, an identical twin with a dynamic personality. Not only that, but he and his brother sang together and often performed at social events. I fell for that, too. But not long after we began dating, Joe took a summer job as a counselor at a children’s camp. Unfortunately, several cases of polio broke out at the camp and everyone was placed under quarantine. Guess what? As fate would have it, Joe’s old girlfriend, Betty, was also a camp counselor at the same camp. During their confinement, their romance re-ignited, and he sent me the equivalent of a Dear John letter, and we would not be seeing each other again. I like to joke that after meeting me, Joe realized that Betty was the one for him. Eventually, they married.

I was crestfallen for a while, but not for too long. Yet whenever I think about polio, memories of my broken romance re-surface. More importantly, memories of the miracle accomplished by the Salk vaccine come to bear. That is why I was delighted to receive two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. After receiving each of the injections, I felt jubilant. Additionally, when my family recently celebrated Passover, a memorial to overcoming obstacles and enjoying freedom, we tied it to the COVID-19 vaccine. This vaccine has provided us with an opportunity for protection against the pandemic that has claimed more than half a million lives in the U.S. alone.    

I am also enthusiastic about taking any other vaccines that have the power to protect me from flu, shingles, pneumonia, tetanus. And why not? I am a believer in science.

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who, as a mom, was equally positive when she learned that her four grandchildren had been vaccinated against mumps, measles, chicken pox. These were damaging, sometimes fatal, diseases of their parents’ childhoods. Thus they were spared.

norinedresser.org

15 thoughts on “TO BE SHOT? OR NOT?”

  1. Well done, Norine! Referencing the polio outbreak was a perfect comparison to the seriousness of what the world is presently dealing with. And the picture of iron lungs was a chilling and intensely grim reminder of what you and I witnessed during this siege. It brought back many memories of the work Sister Kenney (and the dedicated medical staff) did in my hometown, Minneapolis, to quell the epidemic. I find those who poo poo present guidelines and/or refuse to get vaccinated as not understanding the negative impact of their decision — proof once again that history (if not understood) tends to repeat itself.

    1. Thanks Dee. We octogenarians have lived through a lot. And I agree with you about those who scoff at the vaccine and masks, too. I’m glad that we survived — so far.

  2. Great piece. How well I
    also remember that “polio
    summer” of 1943.

    I was hospitalized for two
    weeks after showing polio symptoms at day camp.

    Thanks for the memory.

    Best,

    Bob

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. Good for you! I am baffled by people who refuse to be vaccinated, especially when their reasons are ill-defined or even wacky. I’ve had my first Pfizer and am scheduled for the second next week. I do this to take care of myself, but also because I owe it to everyone else who breathes the same air.

    Stay healthy and happy. Lots of love.

    Sandy

  4. Dear Norine, Although I stopped getting flu shots because I had huge swelling at the site, and my internist advised me not to get the Covide injections, I read new information about it, asked another MD in my internist’s absence who said to get vaccinated, and did get both shots of Pfizer, without any side effects!
    I also encouraged my 28-year-old grandson with medical problems to get vaccinated. He had no side effects with the first one and has an appointment for number two in another week. And my daughters have had both shots as well, one daughter had a migraine and sore arm for two days and then recovered very well. So yes, please, everyone, do get your shots! And continue with precautions outside of your homes. Thanks, dear Norine for using your blog as a platform!
    Love, Yvonne

  5. Fantastic column, Norine. I haven’t seen first-hand accounts of the polio crisis spelled out before. It never existed in my world because we were vaccinated, as we were for so many other diseases. I got both Moderna vaxxes, putting a little Dolly Parton grace in my system (she contributed $1M to get the Moderna vaccine on the market). But as Jimmy Kimmel said and I agree, I would have taken any CV vaccine that was offered, even if they shot it into my eyeball. Anyone who balks at doing something to protect themself—as well as others—is best avoided.

  6. I remember the polio era, everyone was frightened. Our new local swimming pool closed. Eventually us kids got the Salk vaccine which was delivered to us on a sugar cube and later doses were injected. Many years later I went to work as an OT at Fairmont Rehabilitaion Hospital, much like Rancho Los Amigos. The iron lungs were still and the therapy pools were empty , it was somewhat like a cemetery. I also remember the Aides pandemic which was terrible in the San Francisco area. People would not got to restaurants as many waiters were gay lots of men I knew in the arts community succumbed. I had breast cancer at the time and my insurance declared Chapter 11 due to that virus which meant I had to continue working as future was uncertain both payment wise and surviving. I survived and eventually the insurance came through. I have several people among my friends who are polio survivors but are wheelchair bound. Thanks for sharing your experience. I got my vaccine three weeks ago today, the Johnson and Johnson. No after effects just fatigue.

  7. Dear Norine,
    I always appreciate learning y history from you! I’m a strong proponent of vaccines. Hence, my family and I make an annual trip to the hospital to get our flu shots. I did get the Pfizer vaccine at CSUN, which was a drive-thru process that was well-organized. My challenge was timing it right amidst my chemotherapy treatments. I had no significant side effects. As a teacher, who is about to return to in-person teaching, I do pray the parents of my students are vaccinating themselves to keep us all protected!

  8. That was well said. I have also related this vaccine to the polio vaccine that saved so many. Covid has changed our lives dramatically. Some have coped better than others. There have been many suicides related to Covid.

    It feels good to be able to spend time with friends again because of the vaccine.

    1. When my son and daughter-in-law were recently here, it felt so good to actually hug one another. All this made possible via completed vaccinations. Being deprived of human contact takes a toll on us. Thanks for responding.

  9. Another excellent meditation, Norine!
    I would have had my polio vaccination about the same time as Mark. I can actually recall, vaguely, the sugar cubes, though not the needles! To this day, I’m with Science!™
    Thanks for the posting. The image of iron lungs is harrowing. I’d quite forgotten about them. I do recall. my neighbor, a delightful woman, school teacher, mother to a brood of very off the wall kids, who had suffered through polio as a child and walked with crutches all her life as a result. We forget too many things for our own good sometimes. Thanks for reminding us of what is important–that we must remain safe for those we love and those who love us.
    –Buddy

  10. Thanks, Buddy. The Salk vaccine was administered via injection; the Sabin was given in a sugar cube. Needless, to say, the children preferred the Sabin. I have one friend, a retired nurse, who says she wishes that iron lungs were still in use. They were very efficient.

  11. When I was in elementary school, on my walk to and from school each day, I passed a house where a woman/girl was lying in an iron lung in a big bay window with the curtains open at the front of the house. It was sobering to me, even at that age. I can’t imagine what her life must have been like.

    I have received both doses of the Moderna vaccine and, although I still wear masks and take precautions, I feel as though a weight has been lifted.

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