On Vaccination and Growing Up (Day 58)

I struggled a bit today after I took my mom for her first COVID-19 shot.

I struggled because I wasn't sure exactly how to write about it and at the same point I feel compelled to write about it. Vaccination in my family has a long and controversial history. I am desperate to share it, terrified to talk about it and also want to save it a bit for the book I might write. But, I made a deal with myself to write everyday--without editing and without restrictions. So, I am going to try to be unrestricted and not too long winded about it all. 

My Dad was raised in the Faith Tabernacle Church. Faith Tabernacle, which still exists today, believed in faith healing. There is so much I can tell you about this--and so much more I want to know--but for now, for today, just note that this means my Dad and his eight siblings could not be vaccinated and could not attend public school in Philadelphia. Every school day, my Dad (who was born in 1920) would take a ferry from Old City to Camden to go to a private church school. 

One day, as the story goes, my Grandfather was sick of paying private school tuition (and I am guessing giving to the Tabernacle) and called the family doctor to the house. He lined up the kids still in school and they all were vaccinated. 

Which is totally how a Carrington would have left a cult--in a huff, very quickly, without apology and because they were sick of paying for things they didn't want anymore. 

Fast forward 60 years to when my brother was born. He was normal at birth. At 6 months, he had a vaccine reaction. A bad one. It is not a vaccine that is administered anymore, so please, don't use this story to fuel anti-vaccination fervor. 

I am going to stop right here, because, this blog is 100-percent not anti-vaccination. And while I seemingly am an open book, I don't want to talk about what happened to my brother. I don't want anyone's opinions. I don't want deniers. I don't even want supporters. 

Anyway, I knew vaccination was controversial before I started kindergarten. It was all we talked about as a family. The stress my parents must have felt at having to talk about something so outrageous and awful and then be told it wasn't true had to have taken a toll that I can only begin to understand. 

One of the first stories I wrote in junior high was about vaccination. Our assignment was to write a realistic fictional story. I wrote about my brother--and my teacher gave me an F and told me my story was impossible and I should be ashamed of myself. 

I have never let go of that moment. And I thoroughly enjoyed having that teacher called to the Principal's office to deal with my Dad. 

And again, I am going to stop right here and tell you, we vaccinate our children. We vaccinate ourselves. We believe in science. And do this knowing full well that anything we put in our body comes with risks. But, we believe the risk is worth it and that science is good and clinical trials have gotten better and our faith guides us to make that decision to protect ourselves, our children and others.  I believe in reading journals and asking questions and understanding how the vaccine works. I believe it is okay to be concerned or worried. I also believe it is okay to say no, but I sincerely pray no one does. 

So today, as my mom was the first one in this house to take the brave step and get a brand-new type of vaccine for a brand-new virus, all of these ghosts bubbled up. I couldn't get past it until I wrote about it. 

And again, I am all about meaningful dialogue and everyone knows I love a good argument. But I won't fight about vaccination. It is a futile distraction when people are dying, when my friend is mourning her husband and my other friend is mourning her father.  

And now, I'll actually stop. I feel better just getting it out there.