Destination Vaccination

It was the afternoon of Thursday, March 11, 2021–six hours after Tom and I returned from Phoenix Municipal Stadium with our first injections of the Pfizer vaccine rushing through our bloodstreams, but without any side effects.

About the time Joe Biden was signing the landmark $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill (one year after the world shut down), I was rummaging through a mish mash of my deceased parents’ papers in a catch-all accordion file. My goal was to purge unwanted and unneeded materials to make room in my desk drawer for more current items.

I stumbled upon a startling, historically relevant promotional polio awareness flyer (printed in 1957). The two-sided piece encouraged parents to protect their families against polio. The copy began:

There is enough vaccine for you and your children–see that you get your share NOW. Protect your own family before polio strikes again. REMEMBER … adults need polio vaccine as well as children. Severe cases occur among those aged 20 to 35 years and over …”

The flyer goes on to describe the need for a series of three shots. At that time, the approved protocol was to get the first two spaced two to six weeks apart. The third, a booster, was recommended seven months to a year after that.

On the back of the flyer, produced by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, there was enough space to record the dates the polio shots were given to the four of us in our family–Walter, Helen, Diane and Mark–in the late 1950s.

Based on the information recorded there, it appears my sister, mother and I received all of our polio shots in a timely manner, plus Diane and I got a fourth shot in late April 1959. I vaguely recall that we also received follow-up polio vaccinations at school in the early 1960s.

***

Sixty years have passed. Worries about polio no longer appear on the social radar.

According to historyofvaccines.org, because of widespread vaccination, polio was eliminated from the Western Hemisphere in 1994. However, in the United States it is still recommended that young children receive the polio immunization at two months, four months and then twice more before entering elementary school–due to the risk of imported cases from other parts of the world.

Now the conversation with cohorts in our condo community (and in neighborhoods around the world) is about slowing and preventing a different ghastly disease and protecting ourselves and others by getting COVID-19 vaccinations. These are the questions of 2021:

Did you get a vaccination appointment? … Is it Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson? … Have you had any side effects?

Sometimes there is comfort knowing that frightful occurrences have come and gone. That previous generations have survived other calamities by taking proper steps. That history is there for a reason, if we allow it to pave the way toward awareness, education, and greater understanding.

Our job is simple. Listen to the scientific experts. Follow the guidelines. Get vaccinated when it is our turn. Expect minor discomforts like a sore arm and fatigue for a few days. In the scheme of possibilities, that isn’t much to ask of every American, every global citizen. It’s an easy to do list and much more preferable than the alternatives of serious illness, potential death, lingering despair, and continued isolation.

At this point, all Tom and I need to do is to drive to Destination Vaccination–the Phoenix Municipal Stadium–one more time for our scheduled second doses in three weeks. That will happen on April 1. In spite of that being April Fools’ Day, there is nothing foolish about following the lead of science. I will keep my commitment and get the job done.

Rest assured, I also will save my 1950s gem of polio vaccination history. I will place it back in my family history accordion file. It will always lead me down a trail to a time I never want to forget.

6 thoughts on “Destination Vaccination

  1. It’s so cool that your parents and grandparents saved stuff like this. I have no little trinkets from my childhood or may parents’ life. My vaccination seems months away. My community is having trouble coming up with enough vaccinations for the 1A group. Susan, who works in a city forty miles away, is fully vaccinated which makes me really happy. She had very mild cold symptoms after her second shot, but I talked with my father yesterday and learned that his wife was really clobbered by her second shot. It’s weird how it affects people so differently.

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    1. Yeah, I’m lucky to have stuff like this and photos. My mother kept it all. It really is bizarre how uneven the rollout of the vaccine is state by state … and the side effects are a real crap shoot.

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  2. It’s so fun, and important, to find documents like your polio vaccination records. Thank you for sharing them! You make a good case for everyone to get the Covid vaccine.

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  3. I am glad to hear that you had no side effects after getting your vaccine, Mark. Just as people are steadily getting them done, comes the news that Bulgaria, Denmark and Norway are among the countries that have paused AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine over fears it causes blood clots. After cases declined in recent months, several European countries are now seeing a resurgence of the virus, and on those days when you read such news you just think ‘is it ever going to end’! Take care Aiva 🙂

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    1. Yes, that is disheartening news about the AstraZeneca vaccine. There have been so many twists and turns in this pandemic. I was reading that the cases in Italy are skyrocketing again. Ugh. Wishing you good health from afar, Aiva!

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