Then And Now: The Polio Vaccine vs. COVID-19 (OPINION)
A HARRY HURLEY OPINION - EDITORIAL
I have been giving a lot of thought about something and wanted to bring it down to the local level and try to put it in proper focus.
It really is a tale of two vaccines in two very different eras in American history.
Why was the polio vaccine so welcomed in the 1950s vs. the COVID-19 Vaccine in 2020?
The American people strongly rallied behind Dr. Jonas Salk. It’s no exaggeration; people honked their car horns in jubilation. Churches and Synagogues held special services of thanks and worship. Thank you, Dr. Salk posters were posted.
It was America in 1955. Dr. Jonas Salk had developed a vaccine to defeat polio. The American people fully embraced it.
Following a national trial period, vaccinations went into high speed, culminating with a mass national vaccination campaign.
Polio cases went from 35,000 in 1953 to only 161 cases in 1961.
There was some opposition to the polio vaccine, but nothing like what we’ve witnessed over the past year.
In the 1950s, the debate was rational. They argued about whether they should use a “live” or “killed” virus in the polio vaccine. FYI, Dr. Salk’s was “killed.”
One eerily similar mantra was the perceived speed at which the vaccines had been developed.
Famed broadcaster Walter Winchell was against the vaccine, which he referred to as a “killer vaccine.”
Dr. Salk defended his vaccine, and most all of the media sided with him, and Winchell’s opposition was ultimately pushed aside.
Now, we fast forward to the present. It was Christmas 2020. A new deadly epidemic was raging. America in 2020 reacted very differently vs. America in the 1950s.
The government was trusted in the 1950s. That is not the case today. There is a significant distrust of government today.
Despite offering a chance to win $1.5 million and lesser amounts of cash in multiple states and other gifts and incentives, about 30% of the American people continue to be unwilling to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
No cash or prize incentives were required in the 1950s.
It’s actually incredible by direct comparison. Taking the polio vaccine was considered to be a patriotic and lifesaving act.
Taking the COVID-19 vaccine in the early 2020s is seen through a politically partisan lens.
Polio had even crippled an American President (Franklin D. Roosevelt). It was especially harsh with children, who were placed in iron lungs and many would become paralyzed.
COVID-19 is far more deadly than polio. Yet, the fight against polio was a unifying one versus COVID-19, which has needlessly divided Americans.
If you live in a “Red” state, COVID-19 is downplayed. If you live in a “Blue” state, it’s overplayed.
I’ve had a more than 30-year belief that everything in America is political in nature.
Witnessing what we have during the COVID-19 pandemic … it’s impossible to dispute this theory any longer.
How did we let COVID-19 and a lifesaving vaccine become political?
Had it not, we would probably have 85 percent or more of Americans fully vaccinated.
It’s not too late. But, the divisive nature that is presently taking deep root in America will make it next to impossible to convince the unwilling to take the vaccine.
This was not the case with the polio vaccine.
America has been polio-free since 1979.
This it’s because, during polio, we were the United States of America.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have operated as the divided states of America.
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