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Things I Think About, by Peter Bowditch

Polio vaccination – thank you very much!

I recently spent a few weeks on crutches because of a broken ankle, and I had a vaccination against pneumonia today. These reminded me of my earliest memory of being vaccinated.

Polio virusShortly after my twelfth birthday I was rushed to hospital to have my appendix removed. Back in those days it wasn’t the simple keyhole job it is today so I had to spend a few days in the hospital to recuperate. Another thing about the olden days was that there was no gender separation, and one of the other patients in the children’s ward at Hornsby Hospital was a girl about ten or eleven years old.

I can still remember what she looked like, even after all these years. She had a round face with very pink cheeks. Her hair was red, and even though it was cut short you could see that it had a curl in it. I can only remember her face and hair and not what the rest of her looked like because the rest of her was enclosed in a steel box. The steel box was an iron lung, and it was doing her breathing for her because she had been infected with polio. She was quite cheerful, which must have been difficult. I don’t know what happened to her later and she may very well have been one of the lucky ones who through intensive rehabilitation was eventually able to survive outside the box, but at the time the general expectation was that once someone went into an iron lung they spent the rest of their life there.

I have a cousin who is a couple of years younger than me. One day when he was young he fell over, and when he got up he complained about how sore his leg was. His parents rushed him to the doctor and were given the good news that the pain was due to some muscle damage that he had sustained when he fell. His very best friend lived two streets away. A few days after Phillip’s incident, Frank fell over, and when he got up he complained about how sore his leg was. His parents rushed him to the doctor and were given the bad news. It was polio. Frank died earlier this year after spending almost all of his life in a wheelchair.

My best friend in primary school was one of the lucky ones. He walked with a limp but he didn’t need the leg callipers that were on at least one child in every class I was in from kindergarten onwards. I still remember how we had to make allowances in playground games for the kids who weren’t quite as mobile as the rest of us. I also remember that an entire age cohort missed out on swimming lessons because of a fear that public swimming pools were places where polio could spread easily.

These were frightening times.

A couple of years before my appendix decided that it needed removing the vaccinators arrived at my school. All the kids who hadn’t shown any signs of contracting polio (and even those who had) lined up for the shots. A nurse painted our arms with iodine and another one injected us from a stainless steel syringe. Many children cried, both before and after the injection. Some might even have fainted afterwards. Nobody objected. There were no exceptions, there were no conscientious objections. There was a universal feeling that this was something that had to be done to protect children from an incurable disease that came on suddenly and left death and disability behind.

Most people today have never seen a case of polio, and this includes doctors. That is why we have the luxury today of arguing about the value and safety of vaccines. Yes, there were people who objected to the polio vaccine when it was first introduced but they were treated with the ridicule they deserved, just as anti-vaccinators should be treated today.

An article of faith for anti-vaccination liars is that polio was never eradicated by vaccination but was just renamed. When you ask these people where the leg callipers and iron lungs are today they have no answer except more lies and obfuscation. They know the truth but their insane ideology does not allow them to admit it. That is why I call them “liars”. That is why they must never be treated with respect. I’ve seen the world that these creatures want our children to live in and I don’t want to go back there. All I need to remind me that they have to be despised and treated with disgust is to remember a little girl who could still smile at a boy who, unlike her, could run, breathe and play games. Like any child should be able to do.


An edited version of this was published at Mamamia on November 15, 2012, with the title “The anti-vaxxers want us to live in a world of diseases”.

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12 thoughts on “Polio vaccination – thank you very much!

  • Daniel Chubb says:

    Thanks for the insight – there is no way for someone my age to imagine what it would have been like. I guess it must be frustrating to watch the obvious obfuscation that occurs on the anti-vax pages.

    On a side note – as a surgical trainee – “simple keyhole job”? C’mon, I know we aren’t regarded as the smartest doctors around, but we like to think what we do isn’t so simple 😉

  • Peters Mum says:

    Wow. How tight must your mothers asshole have been clenched when you were born, to produce a monumental cunt such as yourself?

  • Mike says:

    Right. Because a single Polio vaccine at 10 years old is comparable to injecting children under 1 year old with single shot multi vaccines?

    The concerns of these parents are far removed from you little trip down memory lane.

    Also, a little side note. Have you considered the reason you don’t see iron lungs is because they are absurdly outdated? Much like your tiny viewpoint.

    • Your first paragraph makes no sense. Is English a second language for you?

      Of course iron lungs are outdated. They were replaced by a vaccine. Unless you have some secret information about how all the people with polio are treated today, but please don’t say it’s been renamed because repeating that old lie just demonstrates that at least part of your brain is no longer functioning.

    • Daniel Chubb says:

      The last case of wild polio in Australia was in 1986. Given we haven’t had the disease for over 25 years in our country, I would hazard a guess that the vaccine is a good one.

      Curiously, that case was diagnosed by Lou Irving, who I worked with when I was an intern in 2008 – the world seems rather small, after all!

      I agree with Peter – what are you trying to say in your first paragraph? I don’t see a point to argue with…

  • Marvin says:

    Intrigued by your baseless and uneducated commentary, I read a little further to discover that you are an ex-convict about to be convicted again (AVO). Given your arguments have no basis in fact, you resort to criminally harassing your victims, publishing absolute rubbish, and associating with fringe sceptic groups.

    Unfortunately I queried images of you. You are the picture of health and I must say, no doubt, irresistible to women.

    Concerning the AVO I thought you’d be delighted to know (although you probably already do because you’re so very very smart) there will be publically available transcript that will no doubt populate the internet faster than a good fart in an elevator. And then the rest of world will know what a completing fucking asshole you are.

    By the way, will you be bringing the missus? It’s an outing she’s sure to enjoy…

  • Anthony says:

    The comments and position taken by you and other “skeptics” are completely undermined by your criminal activities. Uttering death threats, threats of reprisal and physical harm, rape and mutilation of those you don’t agree with surely seals the fate of the Australian Skeptics, but most importantly you. Your criminal acts, and they are undeniably criminal, and behaviour have gone unmonitored and unaddressed until now. You will be named, likely with a criminal referral, in the upcoming AVO hearing.

    And yes, I do support Marvin in his suggestion to bring the missus along. It will be a very very proud moment for her, your unfortunate family and all the skeptics.

    I’d wish a very very tragic, painful and slow death upon you, but that would make me just like you. Well maybe not……

    • You really do try hard to amuse us all, don’t you Mr O’Neill? Keep it up, although I will probably have to buy a new Chucklometer(TM) because my current one can’t be recalibrated high enough to correctly record the level of laughter that your anonymous idiocy causes. It doesn’t tell me much when the needle is stuck on the stop at the top of the range. Also, I thought at first that the lack of movement from the Zero on the scale meant that my Give-A-Fuckometer (TM) was broken, but in fact it was recording the correct level of response to your drivel.

      Thank you, and keep up the good work.

  • Your Biggest Supporter says:

    I’m so looking forward to your court appearance! I hope you’re well prepared…Have you hired counsel? I suppose you really don’t need counsel ’cause you are so very smart!? Are you bringing the missus with you? Perhaps the kids too! Everyone will be so very proud of their diabetic alcoholic dad! Don’t forget to wear one of your trademarked Hawaiian shirts…you do look so stunning and professional in them. Will you be publishing the results? Celebrating? Tweeting? Blogging? And don’t forget to check your blood sugars before you go….maybe even double up on the metformin just to be safe…you wouldn’t want to stroke right in the middle of it all…or would you?

    You are no doubt aware the hearing is a public event and the court always loves to get their hands on as much information as possible…even unsolicited information….Tim Bolen has arranged and dispatched a virtual mudslide of information including evidence of your criminal record and inability to control your temper and simply shut the fuck up!

    Don’t forget, if it looks like it’s not going your way, use the diabetic alcoholic defence…you know….I often black out, have seizures, can’t remember shit…you know what I’m talking about….like the last time you were in court defending a libel claim that you lost……

    • This (almost) anonymous clown just gets funnier by the day. I can’t wait to see the “mudslide of information”, although I hope that the laughter doesn’t make me too breathless.