“When people show you who they are, believe them.” — Maya Angelou
Dear unvaccinated people:
Of course, I am referring to those who could be vaccinated against Covid-19 and its variants, but are not.
Most of us have been vaccinated, at one point or another, in our lives. Vaccination against many illnesses is often required and very commonplace. Children, for the most part, are vaccinated very early on, and later when it becomes time to attend school. Teachers have requirements to address such diseases as tuberculosis. Polio vaccines have been around for some times.
I wrote about a young man I knew briefly whose parents failed to vaccinate him against polio, with tragic results (see archived Basura column in Town Broadcast, reproduced below).
Those of us with military service in our background have been vaccinated against multiple threats, especially if we went overseas. Do you vets remember those plague shots that gave us one very sore buttock? The soreness persisted for what seemed way too long, despite the squat thrust exercises that the medical people suggested said would “reduce the discomfort”. The sergeants seemed more than delighted to enforce that suggestion.
Our friends in Arizona both contracted Covid-19 early in the pandemic. They both were hospitalized. He survived. She died gasping for air.
Of course, Linda got Covid from an unvaccinated person. I say that with some surety – for the vaccine had not yet developed when they fell ill. Both were healthy people. They did have one extra risk factor though; they were both over 60 years of age.
Today, Covid-19 vaccinations are readily available. Wearing a mask is protective of oneself, and of loved ones, and of the general population. Wearing a mask properly, covering both the mouth and the nose, that is. It also serves to slow the spread of influenza, and the common cold.
I’m starting to take it personally when made aware of fellow citizens that have so little respect for me that they refuse vaccinations. They don’t know whether or not I have underlying conditions that exacerbate my vulnerability to severe Covid infections. They don’t know if I live with someone with such issues. Is it fair to think they don’t really care?
I hear the refrain “my body – my choice”. That’s cute, certainly, but it’s rather shallow thinking. If you cough that nasty Covid shit on me, suddenly your choice affects me, and it’s one I may not wish to choose.
What about a 91-year-old uncle? Or a young child I know too young yet to be vaccinated?
I spoke with a doctor not too long ago, and remarked, “These unvaccinated people are starting to piss me off!”
“Me too,” said the doc.
Basura, from the Town Broadcast Archives
“People aren’t either wicked or noble. They’re like chef’s salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict.” — Lemony Snicket, The Grim Grotto
He needn’t have had polio. Jon was 10 years younger than I, and I’d had a polio vaccine injection, and then a booster administered on a sugar cube before Jon was born. The vaccine was available by the time he came along. But his parents hadn’t had him vaccinated against the horrible disease.
Jon was quadriplegic. He used an electric wheelchair, one that placed a sensor close to his mouth. Jon had no use of his hands, so a joystick was not an option. He had a “sip & puff” control, and it took cues from intentional inhalations and exhalations.
It was not called a suck and blow device, though Jon did use such descriptors now and then. With simple binary inputs, everything was ponderously slow.
Controls now would be vastly superior to those available in the 1980s. Of course, the adaptive equipment available to him then was worlds better than what had been available before. In today’s world, there would be speech commands. Jon could talk.
And talk he did. My role was assessing and documenting his eligibility criteria for certain services. It was pro forma, but it was something that needed to be done. Jon and I talked.
Without me bringing it up, he made it clear that he knew that polio vaccine might have spared him the ravages of the disease. His parents just didn’t get it done.
Jon didn’t think it was out of some quirky set of beliefs. It was, he said, just a failure on their part to provide for his needs when he was a child. He attributed it to what he called laziness and lack of organization. They weren’t opposed to vaccination. They just failed to get it done.
Jon was bitter about this. The vaccine was available. Free of cost. There were, in those days, massive amounts of publicity about the polio vaccine. There was even an animated bee, called “WellBee,” who stressed the importance of the vaccination.
That would have meant, for Jon’s parents, someone would have had to have taken him to a site, like a school or a church, where the vaccines were given. There would be some waiting in line. But Jon’s parents never got around to it.
Jon was a bright guy. He did well in high school, and went on to college, which was when I came to know him. He didn’t talk often about his disease or the ramifications thereof. He was angry with his parents, perhaps furious, though restrained in his expression of it. He never forgave them. He said that explicitly, in a quiet, yet forceful voice.
In what had to have been a well thought out plan, Jon killed himself before he was 21 years of age. He used his wheelchair to end his life.
I thought of Jon often as I read Phillip Roth’s excellent Nemesis, his novel abou the devastation of the polio epidemic in Newark. And I think of Jon now.