I Was a Polio Pioneer, and I Can’t Wait to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine

As instructed to Alex Fulton

As individuals around the globe wait eagerly for his or her flip to get vaccinated towards COVID-19, I have been reflecting on my expertise with a distinct, equally earth-shattering scientific breakthrough — the polio vaccine.

Beginning within the spring of 1954, a bunch of kids referred to as “Polio Pioneers” started to obtain the polio vaccine invented by Jonas Salk. On the age of six, I used to be one among them as the primary baby in LaCrosse County, Wisconsin, to be inoculated with the Salk vaccine.

Polio is a extremely contagious viral sickness that may trigger paralysis in a matter of hours and results in demise in 5% to 10% of those that are paralyzed.

The scariest half? Polio primarily impacts youngsters underneath the age of 5. And within the Nineteen Fifties it was spreading like wildfire.

Though I’ve many comfortable childhood reminiscences, being slightly child throughout a polio epidemic is not one among them. Very similar to with the COVID-19 pandemic right now, we have been compelled to isolate in an try and sluggish the unfold of a virus. The large distinction is that it was youngsters who have been most susceptible to turning into contaminated with polio.

Quarantines have been imposed throughout the nation, and journey was restricted. Within the space the place I grew up, the specter of polio was so critical that in 1945, the well being division prohibited all gatherings outdoors of faculty for kids underneath the age of 16. They solely saved the faculties open as a result of they did not have every other technique to hold observe of which youngsters have been sick.

Summertime was the worst. Seashores, swimming pools, film theaters and principally anyplace we might usually get collectively to have enjoyable have been all closed. As a substitute of operating round, enjoying outdoors with our pals, we have been cooped up indoors.

At house, we watched our mother and father’ foreheads crease with fear each time we sneezed. We noticed the concern of their eyes as they talked in hushed voices about how shortly the illness was spreading and about what number of youngsters have been dying.

Even in my tiny city with its one-room schoolhouse, none of us have been secure from polio. I bear in mind a candy little boy who lived in our neighborhood getting it. He recovered however was left with a everlasting limp.

When phrase of Salk’s polio vaccine unfold, the aid was palpable. Folks celebrated identical to they did when the COVID-19 vaccine was introduced — one more parallel between then and now. It is exceptional to be reliving such a monumental second.

I do not know precisely why I used to be chosen to be the primary particular person in my county to get Salk’s vaccine, however I can solely guess that my mother and father jumped on the probability to make me a “Polio Pioneer.” They have been agency believers in science and had at all times been proactive about getting my siblings and me vaccinated on schedule.

I think about they should have been no less than slightly bit anxious. If the considered getting a brand-new vaccine fills you with apprehension, think about what it was like providing up your six-year-old daughter for one. However my mother and father by no means wavered, no less than not in entrance of me.

There was no dialogue, no itemizing of professionals and cons. No quantity of concern over attainable unintended effects or different unknowns related to a brand new vaccine might examine to the terrifying menace of polio.

Possibly as a result of my mother and father did not appear anxious about me getting the polio vaccine, I wasn’t, both. I do not bear in mind feeling scared after I walked into the room the place the physician waited — together with a reporter from the native newspaper who was despatched to cowl the event. Based on the article he wrote, I did not even flinch after I obtained my shot.

I nonetheless have a clipping of that article. And after I see information stories exhibiting early recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine, I really feel a kinship with these individuals. They’re pioneers, too.

I do know we’re not residing within the Nineteen Fifties anymore, and COVID-19 and polio aren’t the identical sickness. However their vaccines have one thing essential in frequent — a cause to hope.

I perceive why some individuals could really feel anxious about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. It is regular to concern the unknown, and this vaccine is as new as Salk’s polio vaccine was in 1954.

That is why I really feel compelled to share my very own vaccination story.

I need individuals who could also be on the fence about getting the COVID-19 vaccine to think about my mother and father’ state of affairs. Together with the households of over 1.3 million American youngsters who participated in Salk’s polio vaccine trial, they took an opportunity on a brand new vaccine as a result of they believed it will hold me secure, but in addition as a result of they understood that it may gain advantage the entire world.

I need us to be as courageous now as my mother and father have been then. I need individuals to belief science the best way my household did, so we will wipe out this virus the identical approach we worn out polio.

I used to be first in line to get the polio shot, and I will be getting my COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as I can. I hope you’ll, too.

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