We’re now talking about polio again. Polio!
While so far there haven’t been any cases reported in Canada, public health officials are concerned that it has cropped up in countries like the U.S. the U.K. and Israel — modern nations with mass vaccination programs. Polio has never been eradicated worldwide, with some countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan still havens for the wild virus. But in the western world, it has been all but gone.
That is thanks to childhood vaccination programs. But we’re now at a pivotal crossroads, where some children have missed vaccinations due to COVID-19 interruptions in regular vaccination schedules.
Still other children remain unvaccinated because parents have been sucked into conspiracy theories and disinformation that has made them distrust our very safe and effective vaccines, leading them to instead roll the dice on their kids getting previously defunct childhood illnesses.
Part of the reason is a couple of generations of kids who were all vaccinated by their parents and thus didn’t experience the horrors of previously common childhood illnesses like measles, mumps, whooping cough and yes, polio.
The older generation of parents vaccinated their kids because they did experience what the world was like when these illnesses ran rampant through the population. These are not benign diseases. Their absence has led us to forget this. To forget the permanent impairments and the tiny graves.
Talk to anyone in their 70s and older and they will all know someone who either died of polio or suffered permanent disability. This is the disease we think of when we hear the term “iron lung”, as these devices were used to keep children breathing when they lost the ability due to polio. Other children were fully or partially paralyzed, many forced to use crutches and leg braces for the rest of their lives, if they were able to learn how to walk again. The older generation will remember the silent summers when parents kept their kids indoors, for fear of contracting this virus.
People who have been vaccinated are not in danger from polio. Those who are not vaccinated, however, may be vulnerable. August was national immunization awareness month, so if your kids are not up to date on their shots, or you missed getting yours for some reason when you were a child, now is a good time to talk to a doctor and look into getting your basic vaccines.
They save lives.