I’m going to talk about vaccinations from the point of view of a person who’s older than most of the current vaccines, and what the changes have been like in my life.
My Age, In Practical Terms
- I was born when there were 49 US states. (Hawaii became a state the following month.)
- I’m more than ten years older than the digital wristwatch and digital clock radios and even older than home personal computers.
- I’m older than all the common jet models flown commercially in the US, including the Boeing 737 and its predecessor, the 727, but not older than the 707.
- Vaccinations that existed when I was a child: diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus vaccine; smallpox; and polio.
- Vaccinations that did not exist when I was a child: measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine; pneumococcal; chicken pox vaccine; Haemophilus influenzae type B vaccine; hepatitis A; hepatitis B vaccine; meningococcus; rotavirus; flu vaccine; and HPV, which is an oncovirus (meaning: cancer causing).
If you read up on all of those, a handful of vaccination shots mean we miss the opportunity to suffer a whole lot of misery, and a bunch of truly smart and amazing people have been working hard ensuring that you, me, and that other person over there have the best chances at health possible.
I still remember spending a week absolutely miserable with chicken pox. A few years ago, I had a reoccurrence in the form of shingles. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
One of My Earliest Childhood Memories
I remember going to CalTech’s park areas where I got my Salk vaccination for polio around about 1963. I was three or four years old.
You don’t see a lot of people with polio any more, for two good reasons: 1) thanks to Salk, it was eradicated in 1968, 2) the people who did have visible polio symptoms are less numerous as a percentage of the population.
Polio’s a horrific disease that not only killed and crippled people in droves, it has the unfortunate habit of cropping up again decades later. It was not uncommon to see people limping with canes or crutches due to polio back when I was a kid. (Granted, it was also not uncommon to see people limping with canes or crutches due to injuries in WW2, the Korean War, or Vietnam. Or even WW1.)
I Hated Shots As a Child
Despite being a child of scientists, I absolutely hated getting shots. They terrified me.
I remember hiding under my doctor’s desk in his office, and there were many tears associated with getting shots. But you know what? My parents had not only my best interests at heart, but those of the rest of society, too. Apart from fear, there was no good reason not to get my vaccinations.
When I was in early adulthood, it changed. I was okay getting shots if I saw the shot. Now I can look or not look, it doesn’t bother me either way, because I know the purpose of a shot is to kick the ass of something.
I’ve generally stayed on top of my boosters since then.
Have There Been Problems?
There is in fact a rather horrifying article about the Salk vaccine and SV40 over on SFGate.
Some of the early attempts at vaccines were like trying to tune a car engine with a plastic fork. There wasn’t any real way to ensure non-contamination until we got modern tools for sequencing, replicating, and analyzing DNA.
Penn and Teller on Vaccinations
Short but to the point, this is an awesome pro-vaccination video that neatly addresses the “vaccines cause autism” hype.
Note that there are vaccines other than the flu vaccine that you should get, or get a booster of, as an adult.
If it’s helpful, the CDC has some tips on keeping (and locating) adult vaccination records.