A Vaccination Primer

“Stupid Is as Stupid Does”

In keeping with the mission of my post—“one writer’s impressions of the past seven decades”—I feel it incumbent upon me to react to the attitudes of anti-vaxers from one Boomer’s perspective. I’ll keep it simple.

Disease kills people.

Disease kills people
(image from Pixabay.com)

Vaccines prevent disease from spreading.

Smallpox is a disease. It used to kill people.

From 1900 to 1980, 300 million people died of smallpox worldwide.

In the early 1950’s worldwide, smallpox killed 50 million people each year.

Because of vaccination, smallpox stopped killing people by 1980.

Vaccination is one of the best inventions in human history.

There are vaccines for other diseases that kill kids (and adults): influenza, Covid-19, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and polio.

Polio was a bad disease when I was a Boomer boy in the 1950s.

In the 1940s and 1950s, polio would paralyze and/or kill more than 500,000 people around the world in a year.

There were Boomer kids I went to school with who wore heavy metal braces to school every day so they could walk with crutches. One classmate of mine came to school in a wheelchair. Some kids were so paralyzed they could not go to school.

My grandfather had polio.

Me with my grandfather, Emanuel “Curly” Byrem, who had polio as a child. He was left with one leg slightly shorter than the other and wore a metal and leather, ankle/foot brace attached to his shoe all of his life.

My father had polio two years before I was born and was in an iron lung for a while. He recovered because of a treatment discovered by Sister Kenny.

I got my first polio vaccination when I was seven because the government said kids had to get the vaccine.

Growing up Boomer, I never knew of a parent who did not want his/her child to get the polio vaccine. Why? Because in the 1950’s …

  • every parent knew someone who had been paralyzed or killed by polio
  • parents did not want their children to get paralyzed or die
  • parents knew that vaccinations work best when everyone gets vaccinated.

But now polio may be coming back. Why?*

It may be because that today …

  • in some US counties, as much as 65% of parents don’t want their children to get the polio and other vaccines.
  • because vaccination works, parents don’t know anyone who died or suffered from polio.
  • too many parents don’t know how vaccinations work.
  • ignorant people are telling lies about vaccines on the Internet and TV because of politics.
  • too many parents follow their non-scientific samples of one instead of learning truths about vaccines.
  • American educators** did not teach the generations that followed the Boomers how important vaccinations are to the health of everyone.

Today, I found myself imagining what might have happened if Forrrest Gump were a boy today, and perhaps with his mother had watched reports on NPR about anti-vaxers .***

“Momma,” Forrest asked, “does what they’re sayin’ mean parents don’t care if their children get real sick or even die from them bad diseases?”

Mrs. Gump smiled sweetly at her son and replied, “Why Forrest, I don’t know if they care or not, but I do know that stupid is as stupid does.”


*Google or click this link: Is polio making a comeback in the united states?

**I am a retired American educator: teacher, district administrator, high school principal, and state bureaucrat.

***The number of Americans who say they won’t get a COVID shot hasn’t budged in a year, and Anti-Vaccine Activists Use A Federal Database To Spread Fear About COVID Vaccines.

CONCLUSION from Deaths following vaccination: What does the evidence show? Vaccines are rigorously tested and monitored and are among the safest medical products in use. Millions of vaccinations are administered to children and adults in the United States each year. Serious adverse reactions are uncommon and deaths caused by vaccines are very rare. Healthcare providers can take specific actions to help prevent adverse reactions, including proper screening for contraindications and precautions and observing a 15-minute waiting period after vaccinating to prevent fall-related injuries from syncope. CDC and FDA continuously monitor the safety of US licensed vaccines. All serious VAERS reports, including reports of death, are reviewed. A report is considered serious if at least one of the following is reported: death, life-threatening illness, hospitalization or prolongation of hospitalization, or permanent disability. In addition, CDC and FDA scientists use statistical techniques to check for disproportional reporting in the VAERS database for deaths and other adverse events for individual types and brands of vaccines. If CDC or FDA were to detect a potential new safety problem with MMR or any other US licensed vaccine, this “signal” would be further assessed and regulatory and/or public health action would be taken, if necessary … With respect to the recent claims of deaths caused by MMR vaccine, drawing broad cause and effect conclusions between vaccination and deaths based on spontaneous reports to VAERS, some of which might be anecdotal or second hand, is not a scientifically valid practice. In fact, a review of the VAERS data reveals that many of the death reports for MMR vaccine involved children with serious preexisting medical conditions or were likely unrelated to vaccination (e.g., accidents). These complete VAERS reports and any accompanying medical records, autopsy reports and death certificates have been reviewed in depth by FDA and CDC physicians and no concerning patterns have emerged that would suggest a causal relationship with the MMR vaccine and death … The evidence for the safety and effectiveness of vaccines routinely given to children and adults in the Unites States is overwhelmingly favorable. In the case of MMR vaccine, this includes preventing hundreds of potential measles-related deaths each year. Any discussion of the true risks of vaccination should be balanced by acknowledgment of the well-established benefits of vaccines in preventing disease, disability and deaths from infectious diseases.

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