This Thanksgiving: Let’s give thanks to vaccines

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“The most astonishing thing about the pandemic was the complete mystery which surrounded it. Nobody seemed to know what the disease was, where it came from or how to stop it…. No specific virus is known to produce it…. While those who are liable to contract the disease can do little to protect themselves…. There is one and only one way to absolutely prevent it and that is by establishing absolute isolation.”

Those words are lifted from a 1919 report in the journal Science and refer to the 1918-19 influenza pandemic that killed as many as 850 000 people in the US – which had a population of less than a third of what it is today. Back then people were basically as vulnerable as trees in a wildfire – if they were struck by the raging pandemic, they burnt; it was that simple.

But that’s not the case with our current pandemic: Now, “those who are liable to contract the disease can do little a lot to protect themselves,” notably – get vaccinated. It has saved hundreds of thousands of US lives, prevented or reduced the severity of illness, allowed society to reopen, and provided psychological comfort.

On the latter, take a look at this report in the New York Times about what life has been like for immunocompromised families with children:

Millions of American parents have spent the better part of the last two years anxiously viewing their youngest family members through a dual lens: as the small souls crushed by the isolation of lockdowns … and also as potentially fearsome vectors of infection dwelling in their midst.

Viewing your own child as the enemy within is at least partly understood by the child. For instance, in the Grimaldo family (pictured above), a CBC report explains how 7-year old Katalina  worries that she could make her immunocompromised dad sick, especially when there’s a covid outbreak at her school. 

But that will change in an instant: Vaccines have now been approved for 5-11 year olds, so Katalina’s mother, Diana, will ensure her daughter gets the vaccine as soon as she can: “I think it will give her a sense of security, for sure,” she says.

And for that, we give thanks.

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