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Thinking About Science

I follow a young blogger named Alexis Chateau. She is from Jamaica and is currently RVing the southwestern United States with her cat. I really enjoy reading her blog and following her adventures. In her latest blog post she explains how she stays safe traveling during a pandemic. Please check out her blog. You might find it as interesting as I do.

After reading her latest post, I started thinking about why I trust science and why others do not – especially those in my age group.

I grew up in a very rural and somewhat remote area. We were easily a 30 minute drive to the closest town which would get you a pharmacy, a 5 and dime, a grocery store, a hardware store, a feed store, and one small family owned department store. For much more than that, it would be at least a 45 minute or an hour drive depending on what you needed. Trips to town were needs-based.

In those times, things often came to us. The Bookmobile was common, especially during the summer when there was no school. There were also rabies vaccination clinics so the entire community could have their dogs vaccinated in one fell swoop. But rabies were not the only vaccination clinic.

I believe I had my smallpox vaccination at school. I have a memory of standing in line with my classmates, all getting the inoculation in our left arms. We all have a scar which I gladly wear because it helped prevent this disease among my children and grandchildren and generations to come. Other tests and vaccinations were delivered into remote communities by traveling nurses and doctors.

I remember when we had the TB Tine test. It introduced a small amount of the smallpox antigen under the skin to test for a reaction. I remember the nurse drawing a circle around The four little pin pricks the test left on my forearm so they could test for a reaction later on. There is a vaccine for tuberculosis but it is not given in the United States. Countries where the disease is more prevalent may administer the vaccine.

Tine test
Photo Credit:Content Providers(s): CDC/Donald Kopanoff, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

I also remember nurses coming to administer the polio vaccine. We never minded that one so much because it was given orally, dropped on a sugar cube. Another childhood disease that I am sure my parents wanted to prevent us from having.

Perhaps it was witnessing the devastation these diseases could impart that made the difference. Watching so many children suffer from measles, mumps, chicken pox was stressful enough. I am sure the worry about tuberculosis and polio was extremely frightening.

Now when we find ourselves in the throes of a Covid-19 pandemic, people deny it, refusing to wear masks and refusing the vaccine. On average, 500 people still die in the United States from tuberculosis every year, more than a million worldwide. Polio has been eliminated in the United States since 1979. That is quite a feat considering the virus once paralyzed 15,000 people per year during the epidemic.

Perhaps it was seeing photographs of paralyzed children, or children confined to iron lungs In hospital wards that left no doubt in my parents’ minds that we would be vaccinated. One of the last people utilizing an iron lung is Mr. Paul Alexander. He contracted polio when he was six years old. He was never expected to live long, but he is still alive today, 74 years old confined to the iron lung that saved his life. His story is here and is a stark reminder of the reality of the severity of deadly viruses. What a strong and determined man he is.

So why do some smart and educated people deny Covid-19? I wish I knew the answer. Somehow, someway, I was raised to believe in science and the advancements of medicine. I am thankful for whatever science spark was lit inside me, and am so thankful, it was passed on to my children as well.