Conversations I Wish I Had

How one person’s death made me so outspoken about vaccines

It’s always nice to hear the more personal side of things. Thank you for sharing it.
An excerpt: “ABOUT ME
DISCLAIMER
SOCIAL MEDIA
WHAT
WHY
SUBSCRIBE TO RSS you’re reading…
VACCINES
How one person’s death made me so outspoken about vaccines
POSTED BY DR. JEN GUNTER ⋅ JULY 7, 2015 ⋅ 2 COMMENTS
FILED UNDER VACCINES
Immunology and infectious diseases were taught in the fourth quarter of my first year of medial school. Until then, like most people, I had never really given vaccines much thought. I received the smallpox vaccine at birth and bear the scar, as many of us do. I remember getting some kind of vaccine before a trip to England in the early 70s. Not sure what I could have caught in Newcastle that didn’t exist in Winnipeg, but I do remember the shots.

And then came April of 1987.

It wasn’t hearing about how vaccines worked or how many lives they saved that made such a profound impression, but rather the death of one person that has stayed with me since.

We were told at our first lecture that many of our vaccines would be updated. If you could provide immunization records I think it reduced the number you were given. For varicella (chicken pox) we would get our titers checked and those not immune would also be vaccinated. We would also have to get the hepatitis B vaccine. If I remember correctly we all received a dose of the oral polio (live attenuated) vaccine and those with medical records proving immune issues were given the inactivated shot.

What if we didn’t want the vaccines? Well, no vaccinations no ward rotations. No ward rotations, no diploma.

This strict vaccine policy stemmed not from public policy, but from one person’s death. A patient who was severely immunocompromised and in isolation, but expected to eventually recover. He/she was exposed to chicken pox while in hospital and died from the infection. There was an extensive investigation and while I don’t remember if they identified who brought the virus into the isolation ward the message was clear – no one at that hospital should ever be a vector. Not an orderly, a nurse, or a doctor. Up to date vaccines were a condition of employment.

The image of a very ill person, struggling to live but having hope that they would one day be discharged and be able to hug their loved ones skin to skin or smell fresh air now dying from a vaccine preventable illness has stayed with me always. Imagine being close to defeating cancer only to be felled by chicken pox? To endure agonizing chemotherapy and/or radiation and likely multiple hospitalizations, painful procedures and possible surgeries to die at the hands of a vaccine preventable illness?

If I get pertussis I know the chance that I will get seriously ill is very low. However, I have a child with damaged lungs and a compromised heart. He will get sicker than I will. And what if I am in the grocery store and expose a 2 month old? They will also get sicker than I will. I get my pertussis vaccine for them.

I am proud of my smallpox scar. It connects me with millions of people who, like me, helped to eradicate smallpox.”

Dr. Jen Gunter

Immunology and infectious diseases were taught in the fourth quarter of my first year of medial school. Until then, like most people, I had never really given vaccines much thought. I received the smallpox vaccine at birth and bear the scar, as many of us do. I remember getting some kind of vaccine before a trip to England in the early 70s. Not sure what I could have caught in Newcastle that didn’t exist in Winnipeg, but I do remember the shots.

And then came April of 1987.

It wasn’t hearing about how vaccines worked or how many lives they saved that made such a profound impression, but rather the death of one person that has stayed with me since.

We were told at our first lecture that many of our vaccines would be updated. If you could provide immunization records I think it reduced the number you were given. For…

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This entry was posted on July 8, 2015 by .
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