I am on the front lines of the immunization debate as a primary care physician. Periodically I get questions about whether or not I will allow children in my practice who are not vaccinated or whose parents wish to make up their own vaccination schedule.

My response to them is this:

“You probably don’t want to discuss this with me.”

Invariably there is a shocked look. And then the question, “Why?”

First, let me say that I feel for parents struggling to do what is right by their children. Particularly when it comes to wading through conflicting data about vaccinations and autism and mercury and all manner of crap out there. They are not necessarily trained in evaluation of research. They do not necessarily know where to look for reputable sources. And let’s face it, medical professionals have a lot of mud on their faces as we waffle back and forth on salt, blood pressure control, fat in diets, etc and the pharmaceutical industry itself cannot be trusted.

But I will admit that I am not able to approach the topic free of bias.


Because my father had polio.

He missed the mass vaccinations in his community by two weeks. He spent almost a year of his life being experimented on in a hospital that would not allow his family to visit except for a few hours once a month. Imagine a second grader coming down with a terrifying illness, realizing that he will never walk properly again, undergoing multiple experimental and painful surgeries at the charity hospital because his family could not afford medical care elsewhere…all of this without getting to have his mother hold him or kiss him and tell him it would be OK.

But he was one of the lucky ones. Do a Google search for iron lung to get a picture of what it was like for others.

Imagine growing up with a man who was consumed by anger and hate and spite as a consequence, so much so that almost every day was a misery.

Was polio to blame?

Yes. Partly.

Over the years I have watched my father tortured and suffering. I felt how it affected myself and my family. There were more victims of polio than the ones who actually had the disease.

My father is not the only one I know who had polio. There are others. Some bore the consequences of their disease with dignity. Some carried the burden, buoyed by anger. But these people are dying off and with them, their stories of the hysteria, the fear, the pain. And then we will all forget.

That is my side of the coin. What is yours?


8 thoughts on “Immunizations

  1. My mother had polio too. Thankfully she’d had the first dose of the vaccine so it didn’t hit with full strength. She still had to wear calipers and was in and out of hospital for years though. Plus her left foot is two shoe sizes smaller than her right.

    Another reason why vaccinations are a no-brainer for me is because I had chicken pox and German measles at the same time when I was a kid. I was sick and miserable at home for two weeks! Totally happy for my kids to skip that experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gee, your poor dad. This is a post that every parent should read. Too bad you did not have many followers at the Time this was posted. I wish this could be printed in the newspaper or in a magazine.

    It brought tears to my eyes. I got the polio vaccine when in nursing school if my memory is correct. I feared for my life before the vaccine- I was maybe 19 years old at the time when the vaccine came out. But I’m not completely sure about that.

    This post brought tears to my eyes. Such an awful disease. I’m sorry that you had to endure your father’s anger. It must have been extremely difficult for you.

    Thanks for taking the time to find the post for me..

    Yvonne D.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This post was very moving to me as well. I had an aunt who “grew up” in a Shriner’s hospital in Philadelphia, a victim of polio, born in the early 1930’s. She was self-educated, never attended a formal school. She walked with a severe limp, one leg shorter than the other. I’m not sure exactly how that came about. She was always considered the weakest, most frail and overprotected of her siblings, but she outlived them all, passed away at 80. She was bright, articulate, an avid reader, extremely worldly. In spite of her struggles, she was the only real optimist I knew growing up.

    Your post was so ahead of it time, glad I saw the link. Vaccinate those babies.

    Liked by 1 person

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