I was a little girl, maybe 6 years old, when I saw a magazine photograph of children in a polio ward, imprisoned in iron lungs. That year, the Salk vaccine spared me that nightmare. I also remember a dot of pink on a tiny sugar cube: the Sabin vaccine. We all lined up in the school cafeteria and got our doses. Our parents were thrilled.
Diphtheria killed my mother’s younger brothers. Measles, mumps, chickenpox and rubella, the so-called “childhood diseases,” swept through my elementary school classrooms. My children were spared. What a difference vaccines have made in our lives. Smallpox and polio are eradicated, and the childhood diseases are almost eliminated in the U.S. because of near-universal immunizations.
After a year of lockdown, overwhelmed hospitals and about 600,000 deaths, I was thrilled to learn a vaccine for COVID-19 had been developed. I signed up as soon as I was eligible. It is a blessing to have it now available free for absolutely all adults and teenagers. But the CDC shows that just over half of adults in North Carolina have had a least one dose. I can’t understand it. True, younger people are less likely to be very sick, but that’s only part of the picture.
We need to stop COVID-19 from circulating and mutating into more virulent strains, strains against which the vaccine does not protect. For this to happen, everyone needs to get their shots. It’s not just for oneself, but for the entire community, that you roll up your sleeve. If you want to protect your parents and grandparents, your friends and neighbors with other health problems, the nurses and doctors in the emergency rooms, and first responders, and get back to “normal,” then get your shots.
— Julia H. Hall