It’s fashionable these days to blame us Baby Boomers (yeah, I’m almost at the middle of the “Boom”) for anything and everything from the state of the economy to the high costs of housing, maybe even for global warming. This is despite the fact that we were responsible for advancing the civil, women’s and LGBTQ rights movements, came up with p.c.s (Steve Jobs was one of us, y’all), and all kinds of advances in art, science, politics. The un-president is a Boomer, but I don’t claim him as such. I like to think of him as an aberration.
Among the many things that parents of Boomers got right, and from which we benefited, was immunizing us with vaccines to prevent us from getting childhood diseases, all of which were highly communicable and could be fatal if left untreated.
Vaccinations have been very helpful in keeping Black children and adults from being victims of mumps, measles, chicken pox, yellow fever, tuberculosis, polio, and other infectious illnesses. I remember hearing about life before vaccines. I have an aunt who contracted tuberculosis in her youth and had to spend time laid up in an “iron lung”, a case fitted over her body that pumped air into her so she could breathe. Then she was sent to a “sunshine camp” way out in the country somewhere, quarantined and isolated from family and friends until she recovered.
Another friend of mine contracted polio back in the day, before polio vaccines all but eradicated it. She has walked on crutches all of her life.
Ignoring such immunization benefits are the “anti-vaxxers,” parents who, in the last 30 years or so, have been opting out of vaccinating their children for “religious reasons” or because they think vaccines cause illness. Then there are those parents who believe in a long discredited connection between the measles vaccine and autism. That myth originated in Britain by Andrew Wakefield, a former researcher and doctor. When it was found that his so-called autism study was funded by people who were suing vaccine manufacturers, he was removed from the United Kingdom Medical Registry, which prevented him from practicing medicine ever again.
These beliefs in false information and research have resulted in an increase of children being exposed to, and catching, what should have been preventable childhood illnesses across the U.S., according to a study by the Public Library of Science journal Medicine.
Repugnantthugs are also in part responsible for spreading misinformation about vaccinations. Various G.O.P. candidates have supported parents “opting out” of mandatory vaccinations for their children because it’s another instance of “big government telling us what to do.” Some have also supported an end to mandatory vaccinations.
What anti-vaxxers and Repugnantthugs are missing is that not vaccinating children leaves all children who haven’t been vaccinated susceptible to childhood illnesses. Especially babies. The immunization schedule for children starts at birth with the Hepatitis B vaccination. If it isn’t given at birth, it can be given at any age. Without it, and the other vaccines babies and children are to be given, they can become very sick. What parents want that for their children?
I’m aware that in the Black community, many of us are highly suspicious of “white medicine” because of the infamous Tuskegee Experiment of the 1930s and ’40s. A group of Black men in Tuskegee, Alabama was injected with the bacterial infection syphilis without their knowledge or consent and left untreated, while another group of Black men received experimental-stage vaccinations that cured them.The results were compared, but meanwhile, the men in the untreated group became blind, mentally ill, and died before their time.
I get it. But not all science and medicine is evil, or a plot to destroy the race. What will destroy the race is standing by while our children die off from preventable illnesses. Anti-vaxxers are pressing their luck if they think they can get through life without being immunized. Want proof? Bre Payton, a writer for conservative news site The Federalist and a Fox News commentator, died last month at age 26. The causes of death: H1N1 flu and meningitis, for which there are vaccines. I don’t know if she or her parents were against vaccinations, but she might have still been alive today if she had been immunized.
Want further proof? My daughter and I are of different generations, but we both had all of our vaccinations, as well as the flu shot every year. We’re both alive, and neither of us is autistic.
Fellow parents, this is a new century and a new year. We should know more, not less, about vaccinations than in previous years and centuries. If you have not yet done so, PLEASE vaccinate your children! Help prevent national health crises, and keep your, and our, children alive and healthy.