Possibly the most hopeful piece of news I’ve seen out of India today is that poliomyelitis may be a thing of the past there. They’ve had no cases for three years.
This is excellent. When I was a child, the polio vaccine was given as an injection. I remember being taken for these shots, and didn’t quite get why my otherwise indulgent Mum and Dad were so adamant about immunizations.
Years later, I fully understand. My parents knew what these diseases did, they’d seen the effects. They’d lost relatives to typhoid and cholera. They’d seen kids die. They were grateful that the vaccines had become available.
Years before I was born, one of my my older cousins got polio. She survived, but her mother believed it spoiled her life. It left her then with a bad limp; and now, in her old age, with very limited mobility.
A friend of ours seemed to have overcome the effects of childhood polio. Her barely noticeable limp didn’t stand in the way of an exciting career and a lovely family. But then post-polio syndrome came roaring in, and again, it limits her mobility.
Polio was so widespread that it wasn’t unusual to see children in calipers to help them walk. It was a sight as familiar as crutches in my (US) college cafeteria, where skiing or football accidents usually hit some percentage of the healthy young population at any time. (This is one reason why I’m skeptical when parents decide not to immunize their kids. They haven’t seen the non -vaccinated world.)
And yet, by the time I was in school, no one I knew actually got polio. They’d been vaccinated.
It’s wonderful that this is now true in a population that’s three times the size it was then – and in villages as well as in cities.