Photo Credit: Mario Hagen, Pixabay
The vaccine hesitancy in one of the most educated countries in the world is vexing, perplexing and downright dangerous in the current Covid-19 pandemic. Can a historical approach save lives?
Vaccine hesitancy is not new — back in the 1950s nearly a third of Americans were skeptical of the polio vaccine as well as the flu shot and the smallpox vaccine. In 1955, a vaccine manufacturing defect at the Cutter Laboratories led to several children being paralyzed by the early polio vaccine. Vaccines resumed after tighter regulations were put in place. New this time are the political divisions around the vaccine, and — the Internet 2.0. Even as I write this piece a prominent rightwing radio talkshow host has died of Covid. Apparently, his last days included a plea to his friends and family to get vaccinated.
Usually, I write reflective pieces with a historical flavor and without plot tension, a pleasurable meandering through old forgotten texts, revisiting personalities, events, and phenomena lingering — just barely — in our memory. Today, I am writing about anti-vaxxers, the Internet, and solutions. As an educator and consultant I feel compelled to address the vaccine ignorance, no, vaccine hostility that is leaving lesions not just physically on our people’s bodies but on the American body politic itself. I believe the past can be harnessed to solve a pressing contemporary problem. The desperate last-standism of anti-vaxxers is an interesting sociological puzzle and a historical lesson too.