By DANI SULIK | Kendall
In the late ‘40s and ‘50s, polio disabled about 35,000 people a year, most of whom were children. My cousin Anita, who contracted polio when she was 2, was one of the lucky ones because it only affected her left leg. Others we knew weren’t so lucky.
Summers for Anita meant another round of surgery and being in a cast and a wheelchair. To prevent her unaffected right leg from growing too much longer than the left, doctors broke every growth plate in that leg. Doctors inserted a permanent metal rod in her left leg so she could walk, and there were numerous surgeries to correct the deformity in her left foot and ankle. When she’d recovered from a surgery, she had to wear a heavy metal and leather leg brace — think Forrest Gump. Anita was in her early teens when the doctors had finally done all they could for her.
In 1955, when the Sauk vaccine became available, my parents couldn’t wait for me to get my first polio shot, and I admit to being scared silly. The entire school was lined up by grade alphabetically, and those of us at the end of the alphabet got to watch all the crying kids in front of us get their shots. The syringe they used then was the size and shape of an Atlas rocket, but it did the job.
When the Covid vaccine was approved, I was so ready for it. I’d heard from friends who’d already gotten their shots that I’d probably feel really lousy for a day afterward, and I did with each shot. Feel lousy for a day or get sick and possibly die? Not a tough choice.
Covid was officially declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020, and is still taking lives and wreaking havoc on families and businesses. Fully vaccinated people are getting Covid, and people who’ve had Covid are getting it again. Why? Because only 65.5% of Americans are fully vaccinated, meaning each of the 114 million unvaccinated is a walking viral mutation factory. Every new variant puts us at greater risk of ever reaching herd immunity, of ever getting back to normal.
Most who claim, “It’s my right to not be vaccinated,” haven’t had to worry about measles or polio or diphtheria because they were routinely vaccinated for these diseases as children. It makes no sense that people who wouldn’t think twice about running into a burning building to save a puppy won’t get a shot to save their own lives.
We used to trust science and were willing to get a jab if it meant we could stop polio, and we did. Because we were vaccinated then, we aren’t dealing with polio now, except in small pockets of the unvaccinated.
This isn’t about politics, it’s about public health. This isn’t about you, it’s about us, and your decision to be unvaccinated is literally killing people. If you want to stop the Covid variants and truly get back to normal, just get the shots.