When was the last time you worried about polio? A long time ago, or never? That would make sense, because the disease has been essentially wiped out through an intense vaccination program. Today it’s estimated that polio has been 99.9% eradicated throughout the world.
But that wasn’t the case when I was a child. In the late 1940s, especially in summer, parents were terrified to let their children out of the house, for fear they would catch the disease (which affects young people in particular). As it happens, my father had polio as a youth; although he survived to a ripe old age (96), he always walked with a limp, because the muscles in his left leg were much weaker than in his right leg. And I still remember photos of hospitalized children lying in “iron lungs” (mechanical respirators), fighting to breathe.
And then, of course, along came the Salk vaccine, which was approved in 1955 in the U.S., and was used in a massive vaccination program. A few years later, along came the oral vaccine.
In my own case, I believe I had the inoculation (the Salk vaccine) while in elementary school, although it is so long ago that I’ve forgotten the details, and I may have had the oral vaccine. In any case, I was free of the disease, as were all my classmates.
Which of course brings us to today, and the Covid-19 pandemic that has swept the world, killed thousands, and caused huge economic as well as personal and social damage. And here in enlightened France, what is being done about vaccinations? Frankly, not much.
Jan has checked out the appropriate website many times, and still can’t make an appointment for a vaccination. When she tried phoning (many times), the phone just rang and rang, or someone would answer and say that she should try again. There has not even been an attempt to reserve a day and time — which is what would happen if you wanted a “regular” appointment with your dentist or doctor. (Nurse: “We can book you in for April 16, at 4 p.m. Would that work?” You: “Yes, that’s fine. I’ll put that in my calendar.”)
And yet French officials keep bragging about opening new vaccination centres, but without vaccines to put into people’s arms.
It’s made me think of a well-to-do country that wants to improve its citizens’ health, and so it sets about building a host of public swimming pools, to be available free, located in cities, towns and rural communities across the land. All good, except that the pools are empty — the officials cannot decide if they should use chlorinated water, un-chlorinated water, tap water, distilled water, or whatever. So nothing is done.
And that’s pretty much the approach here in Europe, in mid-March 2021. Not impressive.