To take or not to take the new vaccine: my existential history with inoculations

To take or not to take the new vaccine:  my existential history with inoculations

It’s barreling down the track a mile a minute.

Everyone from President Trump to Dr. Fauci is thrilled.

Not me; I’m having an existential vaccine crisis.

Trump is thrilled because he did it.  It worked.  (At least so far.)  He used his business acumen to jump-start science in a bureaucracy.  He’ll take it with him when he leaves, knowing that his presidency paid off.  He got the vaccine done.

Fauci is thrilled because with corporate support–the NIH is a 501c3, you know–he rules over a bureaucracy that is ultimately working  for drug companies and their obscene profits from patients and taxpayers.  And China.  Where most of our drugs are manufactured.  It’s deeper and more insidious and nuanced than most of us can fathom and the priorities aren’t exactly in the public’s interest.

Our new vice president-elect Kamala Harris said she wouldn’t take the vaccine if Trump was pushing it–and immediately got labeled by some as a dangerous anti-vaxxer.  Her implication seemed to be that Trump would be setting up his own  apothecary in the White House kitchen, mixing up and distributing vaccine on behalf of the vast Trump business empire. Instead of the vast Pfizer Empire.

But she also said she would take it if Fauci said it was OK.

So what does she do now?

And what do I do now?  To be or not to be with the vaccine.  That is the question.

At my age, the answer should be an easy one:  Yes!  Of course!  It could be so easy if I could just say that and be done with it.

I should be as thrilled as the happy duo of Trump and Fauci that a preventative may save my life–and the lives of others.  That it’s coming down the pike at aviator speed, a savior soon to arrive, just as the man everyone loves to hate makes his departure.  Such a positive tradeoff for at least 80,000,000 of us.  Not so, for the 74,000,000 of us who would just as soon have Trump.  With or without a vaccine.

But, as they say, I digress.

To me, the Covid vaccine is just another chapter in a world of personal decision-making that I’d rather ignore.  That’s what I’m used to doing when it comes to vaccines.  I put them off until the season they’re usually given in ends.  Such glee I feel when I’ve beaten the vaccine–and sucker-punched the disease they’re supposed to prevent for another year.  One thing less to think about until that particular season rolls around again.

But those haunting signs at Walgreen’s always come back:  “Get Your Flu Shot Here.”  And the emails from friends telling me not to forget my Herpes vaccine.  Yes, I sure did have a terrible case of chicken pox when I was small, which leaves me as prey to all the Herpes virus I’ve harbored ever since.  If I don’t get that shot, I think.

But I don’t.

My dad, within a year of his death at 92, actually got Herpes on his scalp. But he got over it within the same time period, about four weeks, that a 40-year-old we knew did–and who had it at the exact same time on her scalp. Still, it may have hastened his death.  If you believe what you read on the internet.

And then there’s always the prodding from the doctor that I’d better have my pneumonia shot, and I have to fight her off.   I already had pneumonia in college–and lived.  Although I had a terrible reaction to the penicillin they gave me to cure it.

I do come by all this angst very honestly.  I not only have a master’s degree in public health–but when my journalism career became a freelance one with the raising of an autistic child, and before I went to law school and became a lawyer, I had an interesting interlude working for the famous (or infamous) Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, known as the “Medical Heretic,” the title of his first book.

Dr. Mendelsohn had been my pediatrician since I was a toddler.  And yes, he filled me up with whatever vaccines were available back then.  I still sport a pale smallpox inoculation scar on my upper arm–but can’t remember if it’s the right or left.  I had polio shots, and polio boosters.  And tetanus shots–because you never knew when a kid like me would step on a rusty nail.

And when the school reported that someone was diagnosed with hepatitis or some such, I had to have a shot of gamma globulin for good measure. And I may have had diphtheria and pertussis shots, maybe even measles, but then again, those may have come into vogue in my daughter’s day, not mine.  I can’t remember.  All I know is, my mom thought Dr. Sabin and Dr. Salk were polio Gods, the Dr. Faucis of their day.  And when my aunt went to work for Dr. Salk (or was it Sabin?) in California, my mom really freaked out with awe.

For some reason, Dr. Mendelsohn and I stayed friends throughout the rest of my childhood and until the day he died in 1988.   Dr. Mendelsohn saved my little brother’s life in 1960.  He was born prematurely with Hyaline Membrane Disease, which killed President Kennedy’s baby, Patrick in 1963.   My brother lived because Dr. Mendelsohn stayed in the hospital with him overnight until he was cured, so that the medical treatment would be administered properly.  And it worked.  His lungs finished developing, as they hadn’t in the womb, and the rest is history:  Dr. Mendelsohn was our hero.  He was for many families at the time in Chicago.  And he made house calls.

Once, my aunt ate five hotdogs at the ball park and had a gall bladder attack.  She went to the hospital and they were going to give her emergency surgery to remove her gall bladder.  Dr. Mendelsohn rushed over and told her she didn’t need an operation.  “Just don’t ever eat five hotdogs again,” he said.

She didn’t have the operation, never ate five hotdogs again–and never had another gall bladder attack.

A few years before he died, Dr. Mendelsohn was in need of a new editor for his well-read and syndicated newspaper column, “The People’s Doctor.” His regular editor had gotten a job as a society columnist at the Suntimes, and he asked if I’d like the job working with him.  Yes, I would, I told him.

I loved it.  My husband, Paul and I with our daughter, Molly in tow, would go up to his house in Evanston on a regular basis so I could work there with him.  It was easy;  Dr. Mendelsohn was a natural writer like I was, and he needed very little editing.  He often said, “That’s all we Jews have that can’t be taken away:  our words.”

Paul used to say we were like a family in the country music business and going up to Dr. Mendelsohn’s was like Doolittle Lynn taking his wife, Loretta to a little radio station with a little demo record to give the disc jockey.

I also wrote two long pieces about  Dr. Mendelsohn during that time, too. Because I was learning so much. Once he told me there was pressure from the AMA  on newsrooms that ran his column–to cancel the column in their papers.  But he said the editors, even though they succumbed to the pressure, were known to keep paying the syndicate for it so they could at least read it themselves.

Dr. Mendelsohn’s column was very controversial.  He was such an incredibly well thought of and brilliant doctor, who’d gotten fed up with the orthodoxy, the AMA and the rip-offs.

As his editor I learned a lot.  He was fed up with the influx of vaccines, he said, and we often wrote about that.  He said if an immune system was inundated with numerous vaccines, with live or dead pathogens, it could wear out or malfunction.  He had me convinced.  He cited scientific studies. And he pointed out all the deadly  allergies that kids were developing as proof, among other things.

I still laugh with my mom–could this be the same Dr. Mendelsohn who’d suggested giving me some sort of drug to stop my growth when she (mistakenly) thought I was growing too fast?  He’d told her ok, he’d prescribe a pituitary drug–although he never followed through.  And I turned out normal to short.

Dr. Mendelsohn had many followers–and patients–as he turned more and more away from traditional medicine and provided more food for thought, warning people about modern medicine that was going wild–and where much money was being made with unnecessary drugs and operations. And all that was making us sicker.  It was a warning call that he drilled into me as we wrote the column.

He also wrote several books that gave everyone pause.

Our family doctor during those years when we went for our check ups was approved by Dr. Mendelsohn; a protege of his.  He was fairly hands off, believed in home births and very few vaccines.  Molly had some but not all. When a theory came out that vaccines could be causing autism, which started the anti-vaxxer movement, I checked to see exactly what she’d had: none of the ones that were suspected.

And so, will I take or ignore the double-dose of Covid vaccine that soon we will all be asked, if not coerced to take?  That you can’t untake.  Along with the additives within it.

It’s made of a “fake” virus that mimics the Covid invader itself.  And that stimulates the immune system by making it think it’s the real thing.  The body starts making antibodies and then the pretend virus gets excreted from the body.  Immunity to the real thing is supposed to take hold, at least for a while and, we’re told, there may be some mild “symptoms” as that happens: aches…chills…fever, a hangover feeling.  At least for a few days, indicating that the immune system is revving up .  (Can you imagine a nursing home full of people who get the vaccine at the same time–and start displaying these symptoms all at the same time?)  Here’s how it all works.

I didn’t even know that vaccines made of pretend viruses were on the market, until my friend’s husband, a doctor, informed me they’ve been working on them.

What could go wrong?  I don’t know.  And I suspect at the moment not many people do know.  What if the ice that keeps the vaccine viable melts a little while it’s being transported?  Will it still work when injected?

I guess it can’t give you the disease, like some of the live virus vaccines have done over the years.  And that’s a relief.  But can it cause an auto-immune response?  Did anyone who got an experimental dose have any serious adverse reactions?

Can it compromise my immune system in some way?  Will it make me more vulnerable to other things that could hurt my quality of life?  Will it hasten my death?  Will it be ineffective–while I unknowingly take off the mask and stop the compulsive hand washing?  Only to find out the hard way.

Will it make me sick in any way at all?   Or diminish my brain power?  Or reduce the power of my senses.  What if it’s contaminated?  Will it give me a nerve disease?  Will it cause an allergic reaction that could be serious or even fatal?  Or will it make me more vulnerable to things that I may lose the ability to fight off?

I will not ignore the new vaccine.  But I will think long and hard about it.

I will wait and see.  Wait and see what happens to everyone else who agrees to get it right away.  I’ll wait to see what the side effects are, if any.

I’ll wait to see if it really works or if Covid will continue to stick it to us.

How long will I wait?  Maybe until herd immunity kicks in.  But if I do that, will I get Covid in the meantime?  And once herd immunity kicks in, maybe I won’t need it.  Ever.

Will people who are vaccinated still be able to transmit the virus–even if they don’t succumb to it?  Dr. Fauci has an answer to  that, but no one will like it.  It’s right here.

Maybe I’ve had Covid already–without symptoms–and I’m already immune.  If so, how long will that last?

We shall see.  As my friends continue to swoon because the end is near for the wicked once-called “China Virus”–and our scourge is about to die–my existential vaccine crisis is just beginning.

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