Iron Lung
Iron Lung

It was a huge relief and a privilege to get my Covid vaccination this week. Thank you, NHS.

When my text came, I was straight on to booking my appointment and I truly struggle to understand why everyone does not feel the same. I think it’s about fear and trust.

I was born in the late 1950s to parents with many friends who’d started their families earlier when their greatest fear had been a virus mainly affecting children under five. They knew children who’d contracted Polio in the 1950s.

Polio caused irreversible paralysis for 1 in 200 children infected, 5-10% of whom died as their breathing muscles became affected.

A device known as an ‘iron lung’ was used to help keep children alive. This was the horrifying picture of that 1950s epidemic – an unimaginable image of rows of children in iron lungs fighting for life.

By the time I was born, Polio was no longer an issue. Why? Because on 1st May 1956 the first polio vaccine was given in the UK. Despite problems with early polio vaccines people trusted scientists and bought their children for vaccination.

Polio still exists and there is still no cure. Children die of polio every year, but today it’s fair to say, they die for want of vaccination.

Covid has disproportionately affected the old, for which most of us can only be grateful. How differently would we have responded if, like polio, it had disproportionately affected the young?

Would we still see so much resistance to vaccination? Would so many of us still fear the cure more than the disease? I don’t know. I do know that my life has come close to being adversely impacted by a deadly virus twice now, and twice I have depended on science to protect me, to keep me safe and well.

Humans have always been and will always be vulnerable to viral threats. It is only in the last 100 years that science has offered real solutions not just old wives’ tales and quackery. Viruses are as old as man, vaccinations are new.

If you’re still not sure what to believe in, maybe it should be how lucky we are to live in 2021, not 1921.

Alison Cornell

WSCC candidate for Langley Green and Ifield East


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