Curmudgeon Alert: Thoughts on Vaccines

I thank God for vaccines.  You have every right to your opinion.  It’s your life. But vaccines, along with antibiotics, have changed the face of humanity. And that for the good. Let me just recap a few of the biggies.  For most of these, I remember when they were common and scary, and I knew people who had them all.

The first one was smallpox in 1798. (I don’t remember that) Smallpox accounted for almost 8% of all deaths world-wide.  Widespread vaccination was slow to take off, (It was 1800 for heaven’s sake) but in the United States, 300,000 people died in the 20th century as public health officials scrambled to distribute the vaccine.  The Disease was officially eradicated in the US in 1979.

Tetanus vaccine became available in 1924.  It resulted in a 95% reduction in tetanus, after being widely used by our military in WW2. (If you’ve never seen anyone with tetanus, I have.  Trust me, you don’t want it!)

Diphtheria vaccine (part of the DPT combo) came in 1928. Diphtheria was referred to as “the plague among children.” (0-5 y/o 20% mortality rate) 1921 in the US over 15, 000 deaths.  By 2004, zero cases were reported.

Pertussis (Whooping cough) vaccine came in 1926, common use in 1948. About a 5% mortality rate in infants.  Prior to 1950, we in the US averaged about 200,000 cases per year with about 10,000 deaths.  2012 about 50.000 reported cases in the US. Largest since the mid-50’s. Please vaccinate your kid! 

Polio vaccine was announced in 1953.  I was 5.  I remember the fear as they closed down public swimming pools and began raising money for kids weh needed iron lungs.  The sight of children crippled by the bug in wheelchairs or on crutches was not uncommon. During 1951-1954, an average of 16,316 paralytic polio cases and 1879 deaths. I remember standing in line in the school cafeteria to get my sugar cube with the vaccine dripped on it.  We were incredibly grateful. By 1962, down to 1,000 cases.  Now less than 100. 

Rubella, mumps, measles, chicken pox – scourges when I was a kid, now almost gone.  Shingles – 1/3 of the population will get it.  Especially for us geezers, the pain is not necessary in order to show my great faith!  I’ll take the shot.

Hepatitis B and C are credited with causing 80% of all liver cancers. A vaccine the prevents Hep B is actually a vaccination that prevents many cases of cancer in later life.  I’ll take the shot.

AS for the seasonal flu, that annual morph of the virus devils that sickens and kills anywhere from 30,000 to 60,000 per annum.  I’ve had the flu, and I don’t like it. The vaccines are developed annually to meet the predicted changes in the bug, and I am grateful for the incredible scientific developments that allow those vaccines to be generally available at minimum cost every single year.  It’s truly a logistical miracle.  

For my wife and I, we began taking the flu vaccine annually when God spoke to her and said to go get the shot.  That was in the early ’90’s. I had been that “super-faith guy” up until then, but when Judy said get it, I knew she had heard God.  I immediately saw all the people I touched, hugged, spoke with, and prayed for in any given winter. I was coughed on by every sick person in my congregation. I visited them in their homes and in the hospitals.  In addition, I took whatever bugs they gave me and carried them dutifully to the next congregant I went to see.  It was only prudent to get the shot.  We have done so ever since, and I have not had any ill effects, nor do I plan to. 

You are a free moral agent and can do what you like, but please pray honestly about your motivations for avoiding vaccinations that have already saved millions of lives. It may not be about you.

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