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I am a dork for epidimiolgoy

Beautiful article in the NYT about the man who developed MMR vaccine.

Seeing everything through the window of the past, I wonder what a doctor like John Hornblower, or even the much maligned Dr Clive would have thought of a medicine to prevent-- nearly completely-- death by contagion in babies and kids.  Horatio lost his tiny son and daughter from smallpox. He and Maria grieved and tried to go on. As so many did.

Both Thomas Kyd and Christofer Marlowe lost siblings from unrecorded disease. We don't know what they had, but it was almost certainly something we can prevent now.

Sometimes I think that this old world is just as mean and wicked and hard as it ever was. We  fail, every day, to treat others as we should. We could all do so much better. We fail as a planet to pull in the direction of the common good.

But this is, I think, a bright spot. Less sick and dying babies has to be a bright spot.



( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 7th, 2013 11:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing that!! My sister and I both had the mumps, and all my siblings and I had measles and what was then called "German measles" (another strain, I believe). I also remember going to Boston in the middle of our summer stay at the cottage to get gamma globulin shots from our doctor to help protect us from the Polio virus outbreak that summer (in the 50's?). One of our friends from the cottage area GOT polio that summer, but luckily, it only affected the muscles in his arms (other victims sometimes died or ended in "iron lungs').
May. 8th, 2013 12:04 am (UTC)
I am a little younger than you-- but my mom was WWII generation. She remembered very well the years when there were no vaccines and no anti-biotics.

She had measles, mumps, scarlet fever, the works. And she remembered the summers with polio scares.

Suffice it to say, my mom was not at all relaxed about childhood diseases.

I think all of us who either have kids, or were kids, (all of us, that is,) should be grateful that things are better now.
May. 8th, 2013 09:57 am (UTC)
I got whooping cough when I was younger and I can vividly remember thinking I would die as I had an attack of not being able to breathe. Chilling. Thank God for vaccinations!
May. 8th, 2013 07:57 pm (UTC)
Yes, I was born in '44, so your Mom and I are probably about the same age. My kids had chicken pox, but had the vaccines to prevent polio, MMR, etc. and I was very grateful!!

We had a boy in my neighborhood who had had scarlet fever as a toddler. He couldn't walk far or run and his lips always looked purplish. His older sisters pulled him everywhere they went in a Flyer wagon, where he would sit and watch us play tag or baseball, etc. He died at age 21.
May. 8th, 2013 09:17 pm (UTC)
There's something of an anti vaccine culture in the UK these days, which makes me furious. People don't realise how bloody lucky they are to have the option.
May. 8th, 2013 09:25 pm (UTC)
esmerelda_t is right. You can read the whole sorry tale of the MMR Vacine Controversy on wikipedia here. It makes me furious that in some places children are still dying of preventable diseases due to lack of access to vacines, but here in the UK parents who should know better are refusing to vaccinate their children and endangering their own health and that of others. One of my work colleagues has a son with cystic fibrosis who caught measles recently, primarily as a result of reduced herd immunity.
May. 8th, 2013 09:34 pm (UTC)
Yes. I had crunchy-granola friends who refused to vaccinate. I was so angry with them. And yes, they should know better. As I was saying to Esmeralda, they ought to teach it in school.

The herd immunity thing really scares me. Some people think that having a kid trumps their obligation to the rest of the world. Not so. I think if anything, you have bigger obligations to the rest of the world then.

Not to mention, it is some sort of insult to the generations of people who loved their kids just as we do now, and had to watch them die!
May. 8th, 2013 10:29 pm (UTC)
Couldn't agree more. There are so many misconceptions and such lack of understanding about public health issues like this, it's really shocking.

I had crunchy-granola friends who refused to vaccinate. I was so angry with them.
I know the type. Partner's sister didn't vaccinate her daughter. It makes me angry beyond words.
May. 8th, 2013 09:29 pm (UTC)
Here too.

People are unwilling to do a little reading and thinking. They should teach more history in school. Also over here 'health class' is only a few weeks learning about naughty parts. Seriously. I think kids should get anatomy and then a little about how medicine works. (Like, you ought to finish antibiotics and why.) It would make us all safer.

May. 8th, 2013 09:35 pm (UTC)
This was meant to go under Esmeralda.
May. 8th, 2013 10:03 pm (UTC)
You've got more tolerance than me as I don't think I'd be remaining friends with people who didn't believe in vaccinations!

I thought in the US you couldn't send your children to school if they weren't vaccinated though? There's currently a huge measles outbreak in Wales so there's been calls for a similar policy here. I'd go even further than that, if it was up to me your children would be vaccinated regardless of if you wanted or not. Just like we don't let people dangle their children off bridges I don't see why we let them refuse to have them vaccinated.
May. 8th, 2013 10:33 pm (UTC)
The friendship languished for lack of-- something.

It used to be that you could not send kids to school without vaccines. But different states have different requirements. And people can get a religious waiver. (Although I can't think of any religion offhand that asks you not to vaccinate.) Some states have a so-called 'philosophical waiver.' Stupid.

New thought. While the kids are getting the classes I have planned, their mothers should be required to talk to the oldest women available-- maybe in a retirement home. Ask them how they feel about vaccines!
Oct. 4th, 2016 11:03 am (UTC)
I read the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin last year. This is when smallpox vaccination (infecting with cowpox) was new and possibly risky, and he and his wife had been afraid to have it done to their little girl. She died of smallpox. He said he wished he had gone ahead and had her inoculated, because whether there was a complication from inoculation or whether they did not inoculate and the disease was caught, "the regret is the same."

Edited at 2016-10-04 11:04 am (UTC)
Oct. 4th, 2016 05:12 pm (UTC)
So many good people struggling to do the right thing, back in the past, with no tools for it.

In my own head, Dr H had tiny Horatio vaccinated, and watched over him with fear until he was well.

The Royal Navy very much wanted to know who was susceptible to smallpox, who had had it already, and who had been vaccinated.

In my own head, too, I think little Mary Marlowe and Mary Shakespeare died of something small and unknown and undramatic.
Had they lived Kit and William would have both had older sisters. Who knows how the world would be different then...
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )