Brookings neighbor Mark Sternhagen rides a wheelchair because he missed out on a vaccine when he was young and contracted polio. Sternhagen lets misinformed anti-vaccination radicals have it with this letter to the editor that’s been making the rounds of the South Dakota papers:
OK, anti-vaxers, I have had it with you! I have watched as you arrogantly refuse to vaccinate your children. You always have some sort of excuse, like how it is big pharma making money. Well guess what? They make more money off sick people than off well people, so that holds no water. Dr. Jonas Salk, who pioneered the Salk polio vaccine that has literally saved millions of children and families from the heartbreak of polio, never patented the vaccine. When asked why, he said, “How would you patent the sun?” Polio cannot be cured, it can only be prevented by vaccination. Many say just use common sense, wash your hands, etc. The polio virus laughs at that your naiveté.
There are many who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. If they come in contact with your arrogance they could die.
I knew the kids who were permanently deaf or blind from the measles. I have firsthand knowledge of what it is like to have polio. The vaccine was in short supply when I was young, and I contracted polio. I have lived with that my whole life, and while I have always managed to make the most of what I had rather than dwell on what might have been, I cannot understand how you could willfully, arrogantly put your child in danger of having to spend their whole life disabled, or die long before their time because of a completely preventable disease like polio.
I wonder how you will live with yourself if your child is disabled or dies from a preventable disease [Mark T. Sternhagen, letter to the editor, first printed in that Sioux Falls paper, 2019.04.25].
If all that would happen from anti-vaccination hysteria was some healthy natural selection culling out the folks who don’t properly respect science, the anti-vaxer problem would over time take care of itself. But as Sternhagen points out, people who ignore science and don’t vaccinate their kids put sensible parents’ kids at risk, too.
Vaccination opponents have brought back measles. South Dakota counties aren’t at much risk yet; the places with the highest risk of measles outbreaks this year are Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, and Seattle. Of course, there will be no risk if everyone who can get shots gets shots.