Another Rant on Vaccination

Back in April, 2019, I posted a personal rant, Why I Am Adamant About Vaccination. This was way before Covid-19 and the more than half million American deaths. The issue was childhood vaccination against measles, mumps, rubella, and the like. I shared a deeply personal story:

During my first pregnancy, an antibody titer that revealed I’d had rubella as a child. A series of conversations with my mother and sister put together the pieces of my own family tragedy due to contagious disease. In most cases, rubella is a mild infection, except when a woman is pregnant. Contracted in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, babies have an 85% chance of Congenital Rubella Syndrome, including deafness, cataracts, heart defects, neurological issues, and other significant problems. The risk goes down as pregnancy progresses.

This is what happened to my baby sister.

My mother had been mildly ill, and I had been, as well. My sister Madeleine was born blind and with heart defects. She lived only 6 months.

At the time (1950) there was no vaccine, but there is now. Today this loss would have been completely preventable by vaccination, not just for the mother but for all the people around her. This is a public health issue that involves us all.

So when I hear the anti-scientific justifications for refusing to vaccinate children, I think of the baby that could have lived and the grief that haunted my mother the rest of her life. I don’t care about personal choice or fears of governmental conspiracies. None of them count in my mind against the lives of my baby sister, and everyone’s sisters and brothers.

I honestly do not care what their reasons are. This is not a “tomaytoe, tomahtoe” discussion where understanding through respectful dialog is the goal. This is about whether we as human beings are capable of acting for our common good (which in this case includes protecting our most vulnerable from preventable severe disability and death itself), at the cost of a much smaller risk and a little inconvenience. Do not ever try to convince me that this area of public health is an infringement on civil liberties, or is a plot on the part of Big Pharma. My sister’s life was more precious than your conspiracy theories.


Fast forward to 2020. People are dying or suffering chronic, debilitating effects from Covid-19. Not a handful here and there but by the tens and hundreds of thousands. As much as 80% of all Covid-19 patients experience some degree of long-term symptoms. All we had to stem this dreadful pandemic were tried-and-true public health measures: wearing masks, social distancing, isolating the sick, hand-washing and disinfection. And the same anti-science nonsense is going on. People are refusing to wear masks. They’re gathering indoors, although every public health agency and responsible news outlet is telling them this is the way the virus spreads. Even as cases and deaths surge and surge again, they reject both logic and science.

It’s 2021 now and we have several effective vaccines. None of them is perfect in terms of absolute prevention of Covid-19, but all of them have proven remarkable in 100% protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Even so, lies abound. Vaccine refusal, especially when coupled with rejection of public hygiene measures, threatens us all.

Add to the mix: the new variants. These are mutations of the original Covid-19 strain that are either more contagious, more likely to cause severe disease, or possibly resistant to the existing vaccines. And what’s the best way to stop them?

Rob Stein at NPR writes:

The vaccines are rolling out, and so far it looks like they work against the variants to protect people from getting very sick or dying. If enough people in the U.S. can get vaccinated fast enough while also keeping up safe behaviors, this could prevent another major surge of cases and deaths. It could also help prevent new, dangerous variants from evolving because the more the virus spreads, the greater chance it has to mutate.

In summary, I had long since run out of patience with people who put the lives of the community, including our most vulnerable, above their own convenience and anti-science bias. I have none whatsoever for those who refuse Covid-19 vaccination, discourage others from getting it, refuse to wear masks, yell in the faces of those who are trying to protect themselves, and so forth. As far as I’m concerned, they’re destined for Dante’s Eighth Circle of Hell, realm of corrupt politicians, hypocrites, and sowers of discord. Or possibly the Ninth, wherein lie those who betray their communities, kindred, and guests.


4 thoughts on “Another Rant on Vaccination

  1. And according to the latest information I’ve seen, the people with the most vaccine hesitancy are Republicans.

    I still remember when polio was rampant. I didn’t learn to swim until I was 7 or 8, because my mother (who loved to swim) was afraid to take us to public pools because of polio. After vaccination, that went away. Fortunately, my experience with measles was relatively mild, since I was grown (and had had all variants of measles) long before the vaccine existed.

    I don’t always agree with the medical profession about the treatments they decide are important (the idea that everyone needed estrogen at menopause being one of their bad calls), but I strongly support vaccines for infectious disease and public health measures in general. If during these small world times we can develop more ways to protect ourselves against pandemics, the better off we’ll be.

    1. Vaccines are a public health triumph, right up there with sanitation and way beyond antibiotics. It’s so much more effective to prevent disease on a wide scale than to treat it, patient by patient. And when it comes to complex, multi-factorial conditions, the process becomes even more fraught with errors, like the HRT misadventure.

      I’m disturbed by the increasingly anti-science attitudes in the American population. The space race made it cool to be a STEM nerd, and the disappearance of polio and smallpox were nothing short of miraculous. How short are human memories, and how tempting the path to know-nothingness!

  2. As I think I mentioned when you wrote that essay in 2019, my aunt lost her only child–and her ability to have children–because of rubella. When I hear people waxing lyrical (well, not really, but almost) about the important experience of childhood diseases I become militant. I didn’t understand, when I was vaccinated for polio as a young kid, why it was such a big deal–but my parents and the parents of children around us did (and later I saw photos of polio wards with ranks of iron lungs with children and young adults in them, and appreciated my parents’ relief). I had the childhood diseases that some people dismiss so easily: chickenpox, measles, mumps, rubella. They weren’t a life-experience, they were miseries (and in a few cases, potentially life-threatening miseries). Are vaccines perfect? No. Most human endeavors fall short of perfection. But they’re hell and gone better than the illnesses against which they protect.

    Both my daughter (who works for a medical-support company and is now considered a medical worker for the purpose of vaccination) and I half-way through our Covid vaccinations. My husband and younger daughter, however, are not old enough nor with co-morbidities that will allow them to move up the queue. So now I’m just waiting, as my parents might have done, for the people I love to be made safe against the current plague. And swearing under my breath just a little at the people whose callous insistence on their own “rights” are making the pandemic last longer and reach wider.

    1. Vaccines are astonishingly safe, which does not mean that no one ever has a reaction, only that when given to millions over decades, those rare instances show up.

      We are of an age so I remember getting polio vaccines (both the injection and the oral). I didn’t know anyone who died of it, but friends survived, sometimes with permanent impairments (and then there’s the long term muscle weakness nobody knew about back then). I had measles, rubella, mumps, and chickenpox, but not whooping cough. A playmate down the block had that and was very sick.

      I’m so glad you and your family are getting vaccinated. Mine beloved spouse and I have had both doses and in a week or so will be “fully vaccinated.” Ditto daughter #2, a resident physician who works with severely ill Covid-19 patients and was in the very first group. Daughter #1 has had her first dose, since as a tutor at community college, she’s included with teachers.

      Now I’m concerned about how the pool of vaccine-refusers might allow the Covid-19 variants to get a foothold they might not otherwise if knocked down early by vaccines. I know that yelling at them won’t help, and really nothing I can do will change the course of the pandemic. It makes me sad and angry that humans aren’t better at taking care of one another.

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