August 04, 2021

Get the vaccine

June Bower

guest columnist

Most people my age were frantic to get the COVID vaccine. It wasn’t certain for a long time that there would even be a vaccine, plus it was expected to take years before it would be available to us. I won’t soon forget the tremendous anxiety we felt during those 15 months the nation was locked down by COVID. Reports of thousands of Americans dying every day and hospitals overwhelmed with critically ill people was unnerving to say the least. We all knew someone sick with COVID and many of us knew someone who died of COVID. Of my immediate family of twelve, six got sick with COVID, despite the extreme caution we were all taking.

Seems like now that’s all been forgotten by millions of Americans refusing to get vaccinated. In fact, there’s politicians and right-wing news media now actively campaigning against getting the vaccine. Weird, isn’t it? Stupid definitely. After more than 608,000 COVID deaths in America, only 67 percent of Americans have gotten one shot so far. Apparently, the only ones dying now are those who haven’t been vaccinated, and now the vaccinated ones may be susceptible to the Delta variant because the country isn’t fully vaccinated yet. Some are still claiming the vaccines haven’t been adequately tested, questioning their safety. So, they think 159 million people fully vaccinated safely isn’t an adequate test? Come on. Give me a break.

I am so grateful for the vaccine and my heart goes out to those citizens in foreign countries who are desperate to get vaccinated but must wait because of limited supplies. COVID is out of control in places all over the world while we here in America are not making use of the supplies we have,

We have plenty of doses of the vaccine available but not enough takers for them. It just seems incredible to me that we are in this predicament, and it’s hard not to feel resentful against those not doing their part to help the country get well again. This reluctance of so many people to get the vaccine is maddening, especially those health professionals who should know better. It is surely going to prevent us from achieving herd immunity anytime soon, and it’s already delaying the time when things get back to normal. Unfortunately, misinformation and politics are at fault, similar to all the nonsense about refusing to wear masks.

This reaction to vaccination is not at all like responses in the past, but God knows we live in a crazy political environment these days. I’ve never heard of anyone refusing smallpox vaccinations, and my generation remembers all too well the polio epidemic when we were children. Our parents were terrified and would not allow us to go to public pools and playgrounds, and we strictly avoided social contact with other families in our communities. One of our friends contracted the disease and endured paralysis that affected her for months before she began to recover. We also knew of those who didn’t recover. There were children who spent weeks in terrifying iron lungs. Thousands of those patients didn’t survive and many thousands more of them emerged with severe lifelong damage to their bodies from polio’s effects.

Adults were stricken, too, but polio was such a new disease it often wasn’t recognized. My father, a big strong farmer, suddenly got really sick and I’ve never forgotten the image of him sitting in his chair crying out in severe pain. I don’t remember how long he was in the hospital, but I know part of the time he was completely paralyzed, and even after the paralysis subsided and he was able to come home, he never fully regained the use of his right arm.

When the Salk vaccine was developed, it was treated as a godsend by our parents, and there was none of this silly talk about infringement on one’s rights. We were given our first dose with a single drop of the vaccine on a sugar cube. After that, for the rest of our childhood, we were inoculated with the vaccine, and polio eventually became almost non-existent world-wide. Today, we all need to get vaccinated for COVID and put this disease behind us -- like we did with polio.