Our Mom, then Betty Lynn Ready, was just a little girl, going to school every day with thousands of other kids in Birmingham, Alabama. From 1949-1952, a polio epidemic was sweeping the globe. The virus tended to selectively target population centers, often leaving stricken children in wheelchairs, with permanent leg braces and deformed limbs. During the late 40s, the disease caused paralysis in 1 of every 1000 children aged 5-9. By 1952, 57,628 children had identified cases, 21,269 experienced temporary or permanent paralysis and 3,144 died.
Little Betty Lynn brought polio home from school. Though she became very ill, and has a slight limp to this day, and is suffering from something called polio syndrome more than seven decades later, Lynn Crane survived. Her younger half-brother was not as fortunate. Polio took his life at the age of three. The stress of the loss of the son broke up the marriage. Her step-father left her mom and mine to fend for themselves.
The Salk polio vaccine and oral vaccines would not become widely available until 1952. Americans young and old would wait in line for blocks for their vaccines, children were later given an oral vaccine. A global eradication campaign began, lasting for decades, and polio now only exists largely on a petri dish in a deep freeze in places like the CDC. Almost every child in the country now receives a polio vaccine, typically in their first months of life.
To matriculate and attend Georgia public schools, proof of receiving more than 13 preventative inoculations is required.
Vaccines and boosters have saved both my daughters, one of whom has brittle asthma and a slightly compromised immune system from the bulk of childhood diseases which I experienced, including chickenpox, mumps, measles, and German measles. And thankfully, BOTH of my girls are now also fully vaccinated against COVID 19. My oldest is a school teacher, in Georgia’s largest public school system. This pandemic makes finding a substitute teacher nearly impossible, has most schoolchildren perpetually masked, with students and teachers alike daily robbed of the simple pleasure of seeing each other smile.
As long as there are able hosts for this virus to inhabit, it has room to grow, mutate, and opportunity to create even more deadly variations. And it was vaccines and their near-universal dispersal which allowed the CDC to eradicate polio and smallpox, not herd immunity.
The CDC, FDA, and other global public health agencies have now cleared a 1/3 dose of the Pfizer vaccine for 5-12-year-olds. PLEASE consider making an appointment for your child as a special holiday gift. Give them back sleepovers, the ability to hug a friend, grandparent, or teacher (IF they want to do that). As with polio, prior versions of the flu and a host of other diseases, bring community vaccination rates to above 75 percent (letting those who adamantly refuse, choose to stay home), and then watch that virus die for lack of places to go.
The nationwide campaign slogan to eradicate polio was logical and easily understood -”Do everything you can within reason.” That is still true today.
My youngest hates needles, as she was getting her first and later the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine (at age 14), she barely reacted. I’m not sure the first dose was even felt, but she was certainly ready for that promised Chick Fil A lunch and ice cream reward. She and her classmates are all sick of wearing their masks, but they would be MUCH sicker if one or more of them were to catch COVID19.
I can still picture a younger version of my mom, limping to school, without her little brother tagging along behind her. She didn’t have the option of a vaccine at that time, but she still has a mark on her heart and that glitch in her gait... She would probably love to trade places and have been among the 1.6 million children Salk Vaccine clinical trial in a heartbeat. Our Mom’s tough, as she has also survived COVID19, prior to this vaccine being available, though she has never fully recovered.
This answer is just too obvious and the risks are far outweighed by the rewards. It’s time to vaccinate our children. Mine already have been, and my twin grandsons, the Mighty Mites, will be in the cue as soon infant doses become available. Talk to your pediatrician, make the appointment. Don’t risk an avoidable, life-scarring event.
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