Just What We Needed: New York's Got Polio!
There are only two people in the United States still living in iron lungs. Hopefully that doesn't change any time soon, but an unvaccinated young adult in Rockland County, New York, recently came down with polio and is now paralyzed and we're gonna have to just really hope that it is an isolated case.
The United States declared polio fully eradicated — thanks to the vaccine — in 1979. There have been a few cases since then, but they've been from people traveling overseas. The last case was in 2013, in a 7-month-old baby who had moved here from India. This case is unusual in that it was actually contracted here right here in the US.
Vaccines are not big in Rockland county. In 2019 there was a major measles outbreak in the area, infecting at least 168 people, and opposition to the COVID vaccine ran high there as well. The area has a high population of Orthodox Jewish people, among whom there is a high incidence of opposition to vaccines.
You don't hear a lot of opposition towards the polio vaccine, but according to the CDC, only 92 percent of US children under the age of 2 are getting them. It's a higher rate than the 90 percent getting MMR vaccines, but 8 percent is a lot. Were polio to make a comeback here, that would mean almost one in 10 children would be vulnerable to contracting it.
There's been something of a polio uptick around the world as of late, as well. While there are only two countries left where it is considered endemic — Pakistan and Afghanistan — cases have been popping up all over. While the WHO declared Africa polio-free in 2020, there have been over 500 cases there in the last year. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has stymied vaccinations in Ukraine, leading to an outbreak there as well.
A recent study showed that childhood vaccinations are plunging across the globe. This is partly due to the pandemic making doctor's visits difficult, but there is also the issue of "increased misinformation" about vaccines being on the rise as well. You know, because people decided to go bananas about the COVID vaccine, and in that process picked up a whole lot of other nonsense about vaccines along the way and have since gone full Jenny McCarthy. Hopefully the next step isn't trying to prevent polio infections with "miracle mineral solution" or hydroxychloroquine, especially since it is rather unclear how ending up in an iron lung for the rest of one's life would "own the libs" enough to be worth it.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse