Honestly, I don’t get it. I’m not sure if it’s generational, if I’ve become old and befuddled, or if I’m just plain stupid. Perhaps it’s a combination of all …
Honestly, I don’t get it. I’m not sure if it’s generational, if I’ve become old and befuddled, or if I’m just plain stupid. Perhaps it’s a combination of all three, but this rampant conversation arguing the merits of vaccination has me in a dither.
One could argue that simply using the term “in a dither” undoubtedly telegraphs my old, befuddled generational take on the topic.
I was born in the 20th century. Yep, I’m a “baby-boomer.” According to Investopedia.com, the term refers to a person “born between 1946 and 1964,” and the baby-boomer generation makes up a “substantial portion of the world’s population, especially in developed nations.” In fact, I (me?) and my fellow boomers represent 23.5 percent of the population in the U.S.
When I think of my generation and vaccines, I can’t help but reflect on my childhood and polio. An article I found on a website called “the history of vaccines” refreshed my befuddled memory.
It states that “few diseases frightened parents more in the early part of the 20th century than polio did.” Polio struck in the warm summer months, sweeping through towns in epidemics every few years. The article goes on to say that “though most people recovered quickly from polio, some suffered temporary or permanent paralysis and even death. Many polio survivors were disabled for life,” the sobering piece informs. “They were a visible, painful reminder to society of the enormous toll this disease took on young lives.”
I knew kids with polio and it terrified me. I know adults to this day who were permanently afflicted with the dreaded viral disease. Back then, of course, Mom couldn’t see what her friends had to say about the polio vaccine on the internet, but chose instead to trust the word of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and our pediatrician, Dr. Mary A. Fyala. I’m confident that Mom never thought to question it. I think it involved a series of shots, but thanks to Fyala, Mom and Dr. Jonas Salk, who developed the life-changing vaccine, I did not become a “painful reminder.”
Other vaccinations followed suit. They included, but were not limited to, a shot in the arm developed to ward off measles, mumps and the dreaded smallpox, which, by all estimates, was responsible for 300 to 500 million deaths worldwide. In the early 1950s, when I received that particular vaccine, an estimated 50 million cases of smallpox occurred in the world each year.
“I’m not getting it,” a close friend triumphantly announced last week when I asked if he was signed up for a COVID-19 vaccination. “The government doesn’t have the right to tell me what I can do with my body.”
“And it’s not,” I responded. “Nobody is forcing you to do so, but your argument is weak, in my humble opinion. Salk’s vaccine literally eradicated polio from the planet,” I continued. “Why wouldn’t we do everything in our power to make COVID-19 disappear?”
“They want to control me,” he sputtered in defense. “It’s all about control, power and money,” he shouted into the phone. He then launched into his belief in a weirdly popular conspiracy theory, claiming that I’ve become “one of the sheep.”
“I suppose you’re right about that. Call me crazy,” I said, my voice dripping with sarcasm. “I was stupidly thinking about the real world and the greater good. The longer we drag this thing out, the more people will sicken and die, but if you need to believe that the government is implanting us with microchips to follow our every move, who am I to argue?”
I ended the call at that point, but he wanted to pick the conversation up again the next day. “I’ve already gotten my vaccine,” I said, “so there’s no point trying to convince me otherwise. I wonder if they can hear us talking right now?” I whispered, but I think my snarky comment went over his head. “You understand how this is gonna play out, right?” I asked, but kept speaking without waiting for a response.
“The government has no intention of mandating your vaccination status, but privately owned businesses will, and should,” I said.
In New York, for example, “proof of vaccination or a recent negative test will be required for entry into large venues or catered events when they are allowed to reopen at reduced capacity on April 2,” I told him, quoting a New York Times article I had read on the subject.
“We’re looking at a future where you won’t be able to take a cruise, or get on an airplane, maybe even go to Bethel Woods for a concert, without showing proof that you’ve been inoculated. Some might call you selfish, or crazy, or both,” I barked at my friend, just before hanging up. “As far as I’m concerned, this was just the shot in the arm we needed to get the country back on track. I hope to see you soon,” I said in conclusion, “but it probably won’t be at Yankee Stadium.”
Fun Fact: “A shot in the arm” is not a reference to a gunshot; it is derived from the American slang term for an injection, the word “shot.” First used in America around 1916, “a shot in the arm” is a metaphor that refers to the rejuvenating effect from an injection of vitamins or other drugs. Today, the American idiom “a shot in the arm” is increasingly used to indicate something that is “just what the doctor ordered” to make us feel better.
Note: If you’ve chosen to be inoculated against COVID-19, it’s important to keep your vaccination certificate safe.