Grandparents May Be the Answer To The War Against Vaccines

New York TimesBeginning around 2013, I read that the Russians first tried a social media campaign against vaccination in the United States as a test to see if they could be successful using that medium to turn Americans against vaccinating our children. See, “Weaponized Health Communication: Twitter Bots and Russian Trolls Amplify the Vaccine Debate,” American Journal of Public Health, October 2018.  They were successful with regard to vaccinations. It seems that too many Americans believed and still believe social media rather than scientists about vaccines and vaccinations.

I read that this social media war against vaccinations was a test to see if the Russians could influence the United States elections doing the same thing, and they were so successful with the anti vaccine movement that they decided to go after influencing the 2016 presidential election. Many believe this is just another conspiracy theory as we Americans seem to be bombarded and the chaos sown has led many to not know what to believe about anything. See, for example, “Celebrity Star Appeal Helped Doom the Vaccine Bill in New Jersey,” by Tracey Tully, Sharon Otterman and Jan Hoffman, New York Times, January 16, 2020, where scientists were caught flat-footed by a surging anti vaccine movement.”

Before the coronavirus pandemic, I was concerned about the advice columns being asked by grandparents-to-be whether or not they had to comply with new parents overboard requirements to get vaccinations and take courses in CPR before we could be with new baby grandchild. Really? The parents are the gatekeepers and we grandparents must honor and obey the gatekeepers to have the access to our grandchildren we want. This is moreover much more important with the in-law parents. All new parents are overboard and we must be understanding of that. With the birth of our first grandchildren, the parents required us to take infant CPR and to update all vaccinations. Of course, all of the grandparents of our grandchildren complied.

Pregnant women should get the TDAp (vaccine against tetanus, diptheria, pertussis (whooping cough)), yet researchers found about 25% of pregnant women were unvaccinated when the babies were born. Even last year, the CDC recommended pregnant women get flu and whooping cough vaccines that prevent what could be fatal to newborns, yet only about 35% of pregnant women are getting both, according to a CDC study. 34% of infants under the age of 12 months with whooping cough needed to be hospitalized. The CDC recommends that every family member be up to date on whooping cough vaccination, and anyone else in close contact with infants. See, “CDC Urges Pregnant Women to Get Vaccines For the Flu and Whooping Cough,” by Pam Belluck, New York Times, October 9, 2019.

I read this week that 60 million children around the world lack the necessary vaccinations to prevent childhood diseases! See, CDC website, “What Would Happen If We Stopped Vaccinations?” The New York Times reported May 21, 2020 that during the height of the epidemic from March 23 to May 9, vaccinations of children in New York City dropped 63% compared to last year and 91% for children older than two. See, “Low Vaccination Rates Posing a Concern,” by Eliza Shapiro, New York Times.

We all want schools to reopen in the fall. Children in school need to be protected from childhood diseases now. The same article in the Times reported that in a typical year in New York City 98% of students are fully vaccinated. Vaccination rates have similarly significantly fallen all over the United States. These childhood illnesses are preventable. Especially with babies and young children who are getting their first series of vaccines, this trend is very troublesome, not only for our grandchildren, but for everyone’s grandchildren, and for us. Even parents of newborns are refusing a single dose of vitamin K which prevents vitamin K deficiency bleeding in newborns. See, “What’s So Scary About Vitamin K?” by Phoebe Danziger, New York Times, February 20, 2020. The author is a pediatrician and said this shot is safe and so are the childhood vaccinations, but parents raise the same concerns as when they decline vaccines. She said, “they worry about interventions they perceive as ‘unnatural’ or unnecessary, about whether the doses are ‘toxic’ and whether there may be serious complications that doctors are not aware of or that are even being purposefully obscured by doctors, public health officials and pharmaceutical companies.”

I understand why the misinformation social media campaign has made many of us suspicious. These vaccinations are tried and true. What about a new vaccine for Covid-19? Are these parents going to also forgo that vaccine? Should we Boomers wait a while to take the newest vaccine?

I keep lists of vaccinations we Boomers should have for ourselves. See, “Vaccines You’ll Need After 50: Check out this list of what to get and when,” by Barbara Stepko, AARP, January 14, 2020.  An earlier version included two others: MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) for those born in 1957 or later, once or twice; and Chicken Pox, once, for anyone who has not had it. Blood tests can tell if you are immune. Among these vaccinations are those recommended for us grandparents to have to be in contact with our newborn grandchildren, especially Tdap.

With the coronavirus, the stakes are higher for everyone. Now we know babies and children are at risk too. Now that some states are easing restrictions and allowing people to move about in their communities, there is a fear of outbreaks for diseases like influenza and especially measles, with many without vaccination. We Boomers are at high risk. If a large segment of the population remain anti vaccine, then all of us are at risk if and when we have a vaccine against Clovid-19. After all, due to arguments of personal independence, we cannot get neighbors to comply with wearing masks!

The anti vaccine movement is already active in social media against any vaccine for Covid-19, if and when it is developed. See, ‘Get Ready for a Vaccine Information War,” by Kevin Roose, New York Times, May, 20, 2020.  He tells us the three arguments that those anti vaccine will make, and one of them is a valid concern, that a fast tracked vaccine’s long term consequences will be unknown. Should Boomers be first in line? You can be sure that since we are high risk, there is going to be pressure for us to do so! Those of us with these concerns are not alone. “Exclusive: A quarter of Americans are hesitant about a coronavirus vaccine – Reuters/Ipsos poll,” Reuters, May 21, 2020.  The article sets forth that “experts estimate that at least 70% of Americans would need to be immune through a vaccine or prior infection to achieve what is known as “herd immunity,” when enough people are resistant to an infectious disease to prevent its spread.”

We know the Russians are at it again, spreading chaos and distrust with regard to Covid-19. “Putin’s Long War Against American Science: A decade of health disinformation promoted by President Vladimir Putin of Russia has sown wide confusion, hurt major institutions and encouraged the spread of deadly illnesses,” by William Broad, New York Times, April 14, 2020.

The problems are wide and complex. Some doctors are advising Boomers to not get some vaccinations that might compromise their immune system in the time of a pandemic, such as the new shingles vaccine. So, what are we Boomers to do?

We should listen to the experts. We should contact our individual health care providers before taking vaccinations to protect us or our grandchildren at this time when we must keep our immune systems strong. We should advise the parents of our grandchildren to do the same. If the parents of our grandchildren are among those anti vaccine, we must speak to our health care providers about hugging our unvaccinated grandchildren hopefully in the time to come when we can do so. And, if approved by our health care providers for us, we can take the lead in being role models of the need and importance of vaccinations, and of the misinformation that is spread on social media. Get the vaccinations you can. Share the articles and news reports. So many articles and reports, as many of those included in this post, are written by doctors and NIH or CDC. Be persistent. Use reason in the face of unreasonableness. Highlight the misinformation makers, the Russians, and why it is in their best interests to sow chaos in the United States. We are Americans and it is patriotic to protect our own and discard the misinformation otherwise.

Finally, those of us Boomers who grew up during the polio epidemic have personal memories and personal stories of the lengths that families had to go through to prevent us from contracting polio. I had a close childhood friend who contracted polio and know all that her family had to do to keep her alive and help her heal. A personal story may work better than media. Ask around to those of our age group. We were the generation that first took the Salk polio vaccine. Our parents did not know the long term consequences of the polio vaccine but knew the long term consequences of contracting polio. We Boomers have lived through so much, wars and disasters. Fighting Covid-19 is fighting a war. We can talk about our survival of past terror attacks and wars. We can share the need for protecting our grandchildren and ourselves. We have much to live for with



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