Sunday, March 21, 2021

It Was 60 Years Ago Today...

Dr. Vivian Ho, a professor of health economics at Rice University, said many people who don't have a regular caregiver may not know how to access a vaccine. She said government officials need to take more aggressive steps to distribute vaccines equitably, such as mobile clinics and vaccination drives.

“Vaccination drives at houses of worship in low-income neighborhoods should be organized, because many of these facilities are well trusted by their surrounding community, and they eliminate transportation as a barrier to access,” Ho said in an email. “Local officials should also work to open some vaccination sites that are available 24/7.”

I have the vaguest memory of getting the oral polio vaccine.  Mostly I remember it because it was my first encounter with sugar cubes.  I was offered candy, and I was expected to eat it because it was good for me! My memory is my parents took me to a local school, where there were paper cups lined up on a table, and someone handed me one as the line passed by.  My wife remembers they were bright pink from the vaccine, but I just remember the cups, the table, and my first sugar cube.

You would think that after 60 years we’d be better at this, at at least as good as we were then.  I know the distribution in the ‘60’s was a coordination between state and federal governments, right down to local governments here in Texas.  Why is that so difficult now?  My wife got the Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine almost as soon as it was released at a drive through location operated by the county. It was extremely well organized, but she got her appointment on-line, after making appointments, or rather applications for appointments, on several websites.

The Tribune article describes, in some detail, the problems older people have navigating the web, or even getting internet access.  Were my mother still alive, she wouldn’t even know how to use a computer, much less how to schedule her own appointment for a vaccination.  I think the polio vaccinations were scheduled for us.  I can’t imagine how we knew when to go and how they managed not to have a greater crowd than they could accommodate.  But it was before the internet or cellphones or e-mail, and yet we managed.

We didn’t think much about people with “mobility issues” in the early ‘60’s.  I put that in quotes because it’s a term used in the article, not because I find it odd.  But it would be an anachronism when I was a child; a term none of us would understand.  I knew adults who’d been crippled by polio, but they managed to get around.  They didn’t need the polio vaccine, obviously, but no one would have thought to leave them standing in long lines for access to public health.  Yes, according to the article, that’s exactly what’s happened to people.  When I got my first shot of the COVID vaccine, there were lines and few places to sit and wait.  Fortunately I didn’t wait long, so I don’t think most people did, but the few lines there were as we were checked in then shunted to wait for a nurse, were clearly daunting to some of the people there. I was one of the youngest in the room, being just old enough to meet the 65 or above cut off Texas is still imposing.  As I left the lines were getting longer, the people obviously less able to stand for periods of time, long or short. Why aren’t we thinking of these things?  Is it simply because the people doing the organizing are too young to imagine the problems of standing for even 15 minutes?  Is that an excuse?

I’m fairly certain my parents were contacted about distribution of the polio vaccine.  I can’t imagine they carried the burden of finding out when, where, and how for themselves and their children.  They would have expected to get us there (my brother and I); they would have expected government to tell them where to be, and when.

What is it we have lost in 60 years?


  1. If they would make it as available as the Polio vaccine was in as many locations they would probably get it under control soon. I've had to use both the phone and the internet to just get placed on the list to get an appointment in a city two towns away from where I live. I got both the Salk and Sabine vaccinations at the town hall two miles down the road in the late 50s or early 60s. That's what happens when you get fifty years of Republicans and the American right gutting public services.

  2. “Government is the problem, not the solution.” I think Trump buried that one. Word hasn’t gotten to the GOP yet, but it’s certainly dead.

    And now we have to reinvent the wheel......