Vaccinations in the living room
Growing up in India I received my first vaccinations, not at a clinic, but right in my living room. They were brought to our doorstep by a man whom we called “Vaccination Uncle.” A slender balding man with a white fringe of hair, Vaccination Uncle was always impeccably dressed in pressed khakis and a brown blazer. He did have the look of a kindly uncle and a pocketful of Parry’s hard candies but he didn’t evoke any sort of affection in my sister and me.
The local clinic hired the services of Vaccination Uncle because villagers in the rural area of the Nilgiris (Blue Mountains) were disinclined to take a bus to the clinic for annual vaccinations. So, the vaccination clinic came to them. Vaccination Uncle’s first stop was always our house which was located right on the main thoroughfare. He came into our living room, diffident and a bit shy, armed with a shiny black bag. My mother always insisted he boil his syringe and needles and he indulged her and let our housemaid bring him a pan of boiling water to immerse his instruments. Once the syringe was loaded my sister and I found that all the fun was gone.
One year our living room was transformed into a clinic and local villagers lined up at our front door to get their children vaccinated against the dreaded small pox. Those village kids and I still have the scars from the vaccine on our arms. In schoolyard the scars were considered a badge of honor and everyone wanted one-bigger the better.
Years later, my sister and I would travel to California with my 78-year-old grandmother and in preparation of our big trip we all had to have all kinds of vaccines and tests. My granny marveled at the TB tests, diphtheria, polio and measles vaccines and asked the attending physician, “Is everyone in America so sick that we have to take so much medicine and injections?”
“No granny,” he replied with a laugh, “This is just to protect them.”
“That is very unselfish of us,” she replied. “I hope they appreciate how much pain you are putting my granddaughters through to keep them safe.”
My granny seems to have grasped the importance of vaccinations in a very simple and direct manner. Getting a vaccination is really the unselfish and responsible thing to do.
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