Sunday, September 5, 2021

Hit me with your best shot

  • One of my cousins, who is a nurse, posted a meme on Facebook that you might have seen going around, listing all the various diseases that have been eradicated or controlled because of vaccines (ending, of course, with a line urging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19). 
  • At the same time, my L.M. Montgomery Readathon group on Facebook was nearing the end of our group read of "Emily of New Moon." In Chapter 30, Emily becomes very ill with the measles. Her friend Perry nearly dies from the same illness, and several local children do die. No vaccines back then! 
  • It got me thinking about my own childhood. I'm (gulp) 60 years old now, born in 1961. Many childhood illnesses that were common for me and my peers have since (more or less) gone the way of the dinosaur because of vaccines developed since then. 
    • Measles, mumps and chicken pox were all very common illnesses that children were expected to get when I was growing up -- and did. Most of us survived, of course -- but some did not, and you could still get very sick. Even being mildly ill was not fun, both for us and for the moms who nursed us back to health. I remember how itchy those chicken pox scabs were, even when they were covered in cooling pink calomine lotion (my sister even had some in her ears!), and how sore my swollen glands were when I had the mumps (and how much I looked like a chipmunk). 
    • I remember getting chicken pox in the spring of 1968, when I was in Grade 1, and then mumps in that fall, when I was in Grade 2 (or maybe it was the other way around?). My sister also got them both around the same time as I did. In both cases, the germs spread through my class and through the school like wildfire. Back then, kids sat in assigned desks arranged in long rows, and I have a vivid memory of one entire row of desks, empty, because everyone who normally sat in them was home sick with the chicken pox. 
  • I do remember getting a vaccine in the late 1960s for the "red" measles -- pre-development of the MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) vaccine. I wasn't sure whether it was still effective, or even whether I'd had the measles at some point in my childhood, but I had my family doctor test me for immunity to rubella when we wanted to begin ttc, and I did have the antibodies. 
  • Everyone from my generation was vaccinated for smallpox before we started going to school (and we have the scars on our upper arms to prove it!).  I still remember mine:  my mother took me to the local public health nurse's office for it. She had me colour a picture of a rabbit, and then she said, "Now we're going to give the bunny some carrot juice," and put the needle in my arm. HEY...!!  
  • I did have a bad reaction to the oral polio vaccine when I was a toddler.  I'm not sure exactly when, or what that reaction entailed -- I was too young to remember -- but thereafter, whenever we lined up to receive our booster shots at school, everyone else got the sugar cubes while I got the shot in the arm. Ow. Thanks, Mom. ;) 
    • (Seriously -- I am grateful, both that the vaccine was available in another form, and that anti-vax was not a "thing" back then. Mom just made it clear to both our doctors and the school nurse, wherever we moved, that I was NOT to have the oral polio, and I got the shot instead, and that was that.)
    • (I'm sure I wasn't grateful back then, though, lol.)  


  1. Vaccines really are amazing, especially when you see all those graphics with all the horrid diseases that are nonexistent or rare because of them. Jeez, the carrot juice for the rabbit is just MEAN! But nice to butter you up and distract you first. :) I had the chicken pox, and I remember people having "chicken pox parties" to make sure everyone got it so they could get the antibodies. How nice that people don't have to do that anymore! I just got my flu shot last week. Yay, science!

  2. I'm assuming you're still not a fan of carrot juice?

    I had a lot of allergies as a kid, and you made me remember that my mom was hypervigilant, too. I couldn't have any vaccine that was cultured in eggs; instead, I had to have special ones that were cultured in dog kidney.

    At least that's what I remember. I'm horrified now.

    1. Haha!! (re: the carrot juice!) You know, when I was about 7 I was tested for allergies and one of the things that came up was egg white. I never liked eating egg white (still don't -- too squishy and no real taste...!) and I used that excuse for years not to get a flu shot. Then dh pointed out that I still eat scrambled eggs and omelettes and I'm fine. Oops. (I've been tested for allergies in more recent years, and apparently I'm now fine with egg whites... but I still don't like eating them, lol. Whenever we're visiting my parents and my dad cooks brunch for us, he makes an elaborate show of presenting me with my fried eggs, excess whites removed.)

      I think I got my first flu shot around the time the H1N1 virus was going around, 10-15 years ago -- we had both a regular flu shot and a special one for H1N1. I had a sore, hot red patch on my arm for a few days after the H1N1 shot (and I still get that sometimes with the flu shot, also had it with the covid shot), but that's been it in terms of reaction. I get a flu shot every year now.

  3. I don't remember getting polio vaccine (a booster) until I was travelling to India in the 1990s, but I probably did get it at school. I remember my teacher's wife had a limp, one leg was shrivelled because of polio in her childhood, and so we were aware of it as a disease.

    I don't think I got smallpox either (no scar). I've been trying to search when NZ stopped giving the smallpox vaccine, but can't find the info. I've had a lot of vaccines for travel in Asia starting in 1980(cholera, typhoid, etc) and never had problems other than the sore arm. Flu shots are often delivered through workplaces, and that's how I got my first in the 90s. These days I have to remember to go get it, but get it every year. Still waiting to see what the second dose of Pfizer's COVID vaccine (later this month) will do to me!

    I wrote about a measles outbreak in Samoa two years ago, and the issues of risk and what we're prepared to take, here = It's appalling to me how many people now are so cavalier about vaccinations and the risks they pose to others, when in the past the same populations have helped eradicate (or almost) polio and smallpox etc.