Giving thanks to America’s medical community for life-saving vaccines

My uncle, Uli, got polio and his legs withered, bringing the disease close to home.

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November 25, 2021 - 9:42 AM

Youngsters Pete Goldsmith and Betsy Schlanger of Iola received their first polio shots in May 1955. Dr. R.O. Christian administered Pete’s shot; Dr. Frank Lenski was with Betsy. The vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas E. Salk virtually ended the icy fear that long had gripped the hearts of parents. Photo by Excerpted from The Chronicles of Allen County: 1945-2000.

If we were not still in the grip of a deadly pandemic, with the seven-day average U.S. death toll from the coronavirus hovering just over 1,100 a day, I probably would not have thought of giving thanks this year for the medical researchers who have given this country protection against many life-threatening illnesses.

Back in the late ’40s and early ’50s, when I became aware of vaccinations, my thoughts were anything but thankful. When a doctor or nurse brought out a needle, they had to pry me out from behind the furniture to administer a shot. I refused Novocain in the dentist’s office.

Then came the 1952 polio epidemic, which was the worst outbreak in the nation’s history. We saw pictures of kids in iron lungs — huge mechanical devices to help kids breathe.

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