(Revised Reposted from 2016) My maternal grandmother Nadja, whose memory should be for a blessing and whom we called “Mum,” lived with my family. Every day when I returned home from school, she greeted me with a snack and a “shmooze.” As delicious as the food was, I loved Mum’s company and her stories and insights into life: They still warm my heart and shape my view of the world. She instilled in me an appreciation for the era in which I was growing up, especially since vaccines against childhood diseases were in their infancy.
In March 1953, Dr. Jonas Salk announced a medical breakthrough that would change lives forever: He had successfully tested a vaccine against poliomyelitis, the virus that causes the crippling disease of polio, which is also known as “infant paralysis” because it affected so many children. Just one year earlier had been an epidemic year for polio, as 58,000 new cases were reported in the United States alone, and more than 3,000 died from the disease. For promising to eventually eradicate polio, Dr. Salk was celebrated as the great doctor-benefactor of his time.
I was born not even six months after this announcement, and, as Mum pointed out, fewer and fewer people were contracting the polio virus because of the vaccine. Yet Mum was chock full of information about how disease can devastate people and families and communities. She knew first-hand of people who were alive only because of the “iron lung.” We’d walk and talk, with Mum pointing out who was limping because of the polio virus. “Thank G-d, you, Hylton, were born in a time when this disease will become history.”
Mum was in my thoughts when immunizing each of our seven children. How grateful she would have been that her great-grandchildren have also been spared these diseases and now, her great-great-grandchildren as well. Her depictions of how diseases ravage made an indelible mark on me, and most likely contributed to my decision to become a pediatrician.
I wonder how Mum would react to hear that today there are people and groups who wish to eradicate vaccines. I’m not sure what they’re trying to achieve. I can’t imagine who would advocate against vaccines if they ever witnessed a child with the whooping cough, also known with good reason as the “100 Day Cough” and other horrible illnesses. While we still don’t know what causes autism, we do know that vaccines DON’T cause it.
I originally wrote this blog in 2016 for National Infant Immunization Week (Annually in April). MORE THAN EVER this message on vaccines is very important.
Please take the time to make sure your children are immunized.
You may sign into the TFC Patient Portal Here to review your child/children’s immunization records in the Patient Information Tab and See Options – Click on Immunizations. The Orthodox Union and Rabbinical Council of America has made statements on the important for Orthodox Jewish Parents to Vaccinate their Children (and themselves). A memo specifically for New York was issued read the entire memorandum here
Discuss concerns, if you have any, with your child’s pediatrician. It’s too bad that Mum is no longer here to tell you what can happen if you don’t immunize. Dr. Lightman and the team at Total Family Care are always available to discuss your concerns via email here.