May 26, 2024


Science It Works

TED TALLEY: For the greater good

The deadly covid surge and the related, stymied vaccination campaign have me lately thinking of the mid-20th century — literally in the middle of, not retro kitchen decor — when children and adults were required to get polio vaccines. To avoid paralysis or death, we took the medicine. It was simple and for the greater good.

I don’t recall my first polio injection or the small pox one, though I still have the pox scar on my shoulder. But the memory of the sugar cube of the later, more effective Sabin vaccine is vivid. In 1962 we assembled at the junior high gymnasium in my Louisiana hometown. No protest banners waved on the playground. No angry shouts. At the dawn of the space race, science was respected.

Hundreds of tiny white paper cups, like those for ketchup at the malt shop, held bright pink sugar cubes. We kids were happy. No needles!

Still, measles, mumps and the like required encounters with “Miss Bobbie the shot lady” in her white cap and starched uniform at the clinic in the parish health office.

This was in the midst of American apartheid. Blacks and whites attended separate schools. Public buildings had “white” and “colored” drinking fountains. All races watched the same movies at the picture show, except Blacks were relegated to the balcony. I wished I could sit up there for a better view.

For routine shots Mother took me to the clinic. A folding plastic wall, as in our church fellowship hall, divided the room and separated Black from white. It was only partly closed. Everyone sat in similar uncomfortable metal folding chairs.

Thus even during sanctioned discrimination, basic concern for fellow man — especially the young — prevailed. That waiting room’s half-shut screen was a shallow bow to injustice. Ultimately every child was treated by the same soft-spoken white doctor and the same white nurse. And her hypodermics knew not the difference of skin color. In brief interludes, we all were equal.

Current day, I’m aghast at the reports of deaths and case rates rising rapidly in the pandemic’s new surge. I want to run out of the house screaming “Get your shots, you idiots!” For the sake of my neighbors, I’ve restrained myself.

I’m protected. I’ve had my shots. But I’m not careless. I use the hand sanitizer as I enter Walmart and I wear a mask when required to do so as in church services.

So what difference should it make to me if anti-vaccine science deniers plunge themselves headlong into self-annihilation? Let Darwin intervene. The gene pool will be improved.

The problem with that stance, other than the evil nature of wishing death upon others, is that I’m a grandfather and a great-grandfather. I worry terribly for the little ones younger than 12. Allowing stupid adults to do themselves in is not worth the collateral damage to innocent children, firstly, nor secondly to respiratory care providers on the brink of death themselves from PTSD.

How did we get to such a point? When did selfishness and misinformed defiance replace decency and reason?

I lay this at the feet of Donald Trump. His “MAGA” virus has mutated into a deadly, divisive political strain of self-centeredness that actually has made America crappy again. No argument against shots or masks stands the test of science and logic. The vaccines are not suspect because they were “rushed.” Scientists of today built models based on similar viruses and were aided by massive computer power not available to Salk, Sabin or Louis Pasteur for that matter.

And in spite of what Fox News has told you, the surge is not because immigrants overwhelmed the border. The July 1 surge map clearly shows the bright red, ground-zero explosion centered at heartland Springfield, Mo., where white unmasked, under-inoculated masses are in summer pilgrimage mode to Bass Pro’s flagship store and Branson amusements. What’s that you say? Indigent Guatemalans had urgent need for the Acrobats of Shanghai show? Put down the racist dog whistle.

A month later the map is red basically coast to coast.

I implore the vaccine hesitant. For the sake of greater good and my grandchildren, load the family into the Denali and head to Walgreens for your shots. Then reward yourselves with a trip to Golden Corral where you’ll be reminded: Plexiglas sneeze screens have been in place there for decades to protect you. Or was that a first inkling of government and corporate oligarchy overreach?

Dismiss the thought. You will have done the right and patriotic thing. Enjoy your peach cobbler.