When I was five, I remember looking forward to a birthday party for our pediatrician’s daughter, Ruthie, who was turning six. But the week before, she was hospitalized with polio—the scourge of our parents’ generation. No party, of course, and instead we visited her in hospital. The Iron Lung made an impression on me, and even though it is an outdated technology that gave way to intubation and ventilators, the sight of my friend, helpless in that contraption has never left me. Probably because Ruthie died the following Wednesday.

Later that year, we all gratefully lined up in the elementary school cafeteria to receive the first dose of the Sabin oral polio vaccine. There was no discussion about whether it should be mandatory because there was zero controversy. Everyone recognized the threat and wanted their children to live. The only fighting I recall was jockeying for position in line.

When I became a father I was palpably relieved when my kids got the various vaccines against childhood illnesses, themselves the scourge of previous generations. From small pox and measles to rubella and polio, we didn’t hesitate.

That’s the frame I see vaccines through.

Dr. Lee Savio Beers is the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Incredibly, to me at least, Dr. Beers plea for parents to inoculate their children against the ravages of COVID-19 is stirring up a hornet’s nest of angry declarations about mandatory vaccinations for school children—and not just for COVID. Remember: the Supreme Court ruled in 1903 that mandatory inoculations against contagious diseases were legal and an appropriate public health measure.

While true that children don’t generally suffer the worst effects of COVID, Dr. Beers and the Academy of Pediatrics are trying to tell us that contracting it is no picnic. They fear the long term effects of the illness, and the threat that the children will spread the disease to unvaccinated and/or immunocompromised family members. Any way you look at it, just as in adults, getting the vaccine is significantly less risky than getting COVID.

“There is simply not an acceptable number of child deaths when such effective and safe preventive treatments are available,” writes Dr. Beers. “So, for the same reason pediatricians recommend seatbelts and car seats, we are recommending vaccines for Covid-19.”

We are so totally off the rails here. Public health and the miracle of modern medicine have been politicized and disparaged by a loud minority in ways I find unfathomable.

Jeff Tieidrich, a clever Twitter tweeter had this to say, “Vaccine mandates are causing teachers who don’t believe in science to quit, nurses who don’t believe in medicine to quit, and cops who don’t believe in public service to quit. I fail to see the downside.”

Police unions, inordinately strong to begin with, have refused to cooperate. In the aftermath of the George Floyd murder by an on-duty Minneapolis police officer, the expected, promised, much delayed, and ultimately failed reform of police culture never materialized, due in large part to the outsize power of police unions. They are staunch (and threatening) in their support of officers who don’t want to be inoculated.

Now, many are trying a different tack: the religious exemption. On October 31st, the Wall Street Journal reported that when groups ranging from nurses and firefighters to students unsuccessfully sued in federal court, religious exemption requests soared.

For a tiny percentage of claimants whose religious beliefs really do dictate they defer, it is sincere. For the vast majority, it is more Hail Mary (appropriate, huh?) than actual religious concern. Most vaccine dodgers who claim the religious exemption say they’ve heard the vaccines use aborted fetal stem cell lines, which is not exactly true, it’s the research leading to the vaccines that, like so many other medicines, uses stem cell lines.

Conway Regional Hospital in Arkansas was first to address employees who tried the religious argument. Conway is requiring a signed pledge that these exemption seekers will not use Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Ex-Lax, Benadryl, Claritin or thirty other common over-the-counter drugs for whose development stem cells were also used. The form, in part, reads, "This will help to validate your understanding of the ubiquity of fetal cell use in the testing and development of common medicines and consumer products and support your claim of a 'sincerely held belief.'”

Before long, GE, AMTRAK, Tyson Foods, Disney, Boeing, and the airlines were all using a similar questionnaire. GE asks for a written explanation, and says lying on the form is grounds for termination.

Sometime in the decades between the miracle of polio eradication and the COVID pandemic, the argument that individual liberty means not having to do one’s part in protecting the public health took hold.

I wonder what Ruthie would say about that.

©2021 Jon Sinton

(1) comment

BonnieMarieK

Polio was caused by pesticides, where it destroyed gut habitats to allow the virus to penetrate the natural barriers and cause lesions on the spinal cord. As pesticide use came under more control, polio began to disappear, as well.

The current covid vaccine does not meet safe requirements taught in text books. It causes illness and death, in some. It is costing trillions to implement, making it impractical. Any immunology text book has the criteria for safe and effective vaccines and the covid19 vaccine does not meet any of those standards.

Even worse, is that the covid19 vaccine has the same extreme cold storage requirements and same exact booster schedule as another vaccine. SpayVac. This is the only other vaccine that the covid19 vaccine shares these commonalities with. SpayVac is a "lipid nanoparticle delivery system" to sterilize horses. Covid vaccines are "lipid nanoparticle delivery systems" to do what now? How would you know if someone was pulling a switcheroo on you?

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