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COVID-19 vaccine recipients recall polio epidemic

Posted February 05, 2021 in Press Releases

David Young, 81, has no qualms about getting the coronavirus vaccination being rolled out across Ohio and the U.S. “Everybody should know by now that COVID-19 spreads like wildfire,” the Bainbridge resident said after getting the inoculation in January. “This will only change when we stop giving [the virus] to each other. Get your vaccine. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep a distance from others. That’s when COVID-19 will go away and normal life can return.”

Mr. Young was among the fi rst in the state’s second wave of inoculations that began on Jan. 19 with residents 80 years and older. The plan calls for phasing in residents by age over the next several weeks with 65 and older as the last group for Phase 1B. Although COVID-19 inoculations were developed by scientists fairly quickly compared to other vaccines, many area retirees said they are not worried about side effects. They are among the 54 million U.S. citizens over the age of 65 who may recall a time when another health scare – the polio virus – caused fear across the nation.

Polio impacted the health of mostly young people from about 1916 until 1955 when Dr. Jonas Salk’s vaccine by injection was approved. Mr. Young recalled taking the polio oral vaccine in a small paper cup at school as a child in California. Polio peaked in the 1950s paralyzing an average of 16,000 each year and killing 2,000 annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Albert Sabin’s oral polio vaccine was licensed in 1960. Polio was eliminated in the U.S. by 1979 thanks to vaccines.

Bob Fay, 90, of the Weils of Menorah Park in Bainbridge described his COVID-19 inoculation experience as “perfect.” The former pharmaceutical sales representative recalled his fear of needles when he received a polio shot as a child in New York. “The way the COVID-19 virus is being handled is much more professional and better organized,” Mr. Fay said comparing it to the distribution of polio vaccines.

“[The medical professionals] have followed a good plan and given a lot of thought to it.” Gloria Janson, 90, of Hamlet Village in Chagrin Falls, said while growing up in Cleveland Heights, she received the polio vaccine as a shot in the 1950s. The usual swimming activities at her grandparents’ home in Mentor were put on hold for several summers due to the polio epidemic, she said. Health experts believed the polio virus could be spread in the water.

“The [polio] vaccine was a godsend,” she said. Morton Sobel, 93, of the Weils said people lived in fear of catching polio, just as many people today are worried about contracting COVID-19. “I haven’t met too many people who are reluctant” to get the COVID-19 vaccine, Mr. Sobel said of his senior living community. “The people here are very anxious to get it done.” Experts say the experience with polio – that had no prevention or cure before the vaccines were developed – may be why many older Americans are open to getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We’ve come so far in understanding all these pathogens now,” said Dot Bambach, 75, a South Franklin Circle resident who received both doses of her COVID-19 vaccine. “It’s not surprising to me that we produced a vaccine quickly because of past learning curves that scientists had to climb up.” Long lines and scheduling conflicts prompted some residents who winter in Florida to drive back to Chagrin Falls to get the vaccine, she said.

“We’ve been able to keep the virus out of the community by being vigilant about staying in and wearing a mask and washing our hands. “But we also realize that we’re very vulnerable,” she added. “Everyone says if [the COVID-19 vaccine] gives them any immunity at all, they’ll get it.” Statewide plan Gov. Mike DeWine, 74, who received his COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, announced Ohio’s vaccine rollout that began in mid-December with healthcare workers, EMS responders, people with developmental disabilities and mental health disorders and employees and residents of nursing homes in Phase 1A. Phase 1B began Jan. 19, which included people age 80 and older.

On Jan 25, people age 75 and older qualified. On Monday, Ohioans age 70 and older were eligible and on Feb. 8 age 65 and older can step in line. Gov. DeWine also announced plans for school employees to be vaccinated in Phase 1B. Mr. Young, who received his vaccine at the University Hospitals Management Services Center in Shaker Heights, is optimistic about the outcome. “I felt so good after I got it, I could have played golf,” he said. “It was superb.” After abiding by the statewide stay-at-home order over the last 11 months with his wife Karen, he is ready for a change.

The vaccine, he said, is “the light at the end of the tunnel.” Kim Pidala, the lead life enrichment coordinator at the Weils, said many residents feel isolated due to the lockdown that started in December. “It’s been hard on [residents]. That’s where my team comes into play,” Ms. Pidala said. “We visit and bring puzzles and woodworking projects, ceramic projects, whatever they ask for we try to provide.” Confusion over signup As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues, more and more people have questions about how to sign up. Joe Benny, director of communications for the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging, said that their organization aims to be a resource to navigate the vaccination process.

“When the governor announced [the vaccine plans], he said to call your local [area agency on aging], so we got over 900 calls,” Mr. Benny said. The agency set up a 24/7 vaccine information hotline, which is 1-844-304-0004. People can also visit and click on the link under “COVID-19 vaccine information” for a vaccine schedule and more information. The United Way 2-1-1 HelpLink is also reaching out. Last week, staffers began providing information to Cuyahoga County residents who are eligible for the phase 1B vaccines.

Nearly 90 providers, including hospitals, primary care physicians and pharmacies, now offer vaccines across the county, according to the United Way. “We know that people are eager to get vaccinated and that the rollout of the vaccine has been confusing for many,” Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish said in a written statement. “We are supporting this centralized and familiar phone number so people can get answers to their questions, such as ‘Am I eligible?’ ‘When can I get vaccinated?’ ‘Where do I sign up?’ and other concerns.” The 2-1-1 HelpLink is a free and confi dential service.

COVID-19 vaccine information is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Times recycling publication named Best in Show by SPJ The Chagrin Valley Times’ recycling series recently received a First Place Award in the Best of Show category for Best Special Publication in the 2020 Ohio Society of Professional Journalists statewide contest. The Times produced a publication entitled “Turning Point for Recycling: A series on the evolution and future of waste recovery” in 2019. The publication has been available as an e-book on the Times website that can be downloaded for free by the public.

The content was also printed in July 2019 issues of the Chagrin Valley Times, Solon Times and the Geauga Times Courier. The special publication was submitted for the 2020 SPJ contest for work done in 2019. Awards were announced at the end of 2020. The award names Editor Ellen J. Kleinerman as well as reporters Tim Tedeschi, Julie Hullett, Samantha Cottrill and Sue Reid, graphic designer Maureen Bole and photographers Geoff Powers and Tanner Mondok.

The special publication reviewed topics including market trends for recyclable products, curbside collection, hazardous waste, rising recycling costs, plastic bag bans and how to repurpose materials. It also gives detailed instructions for what can be recycled and how to do so correctly. The e-book has been used as an educational tool by organizations including the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District.

The series also received a First Place for Indepth Reporting in the 2020 Ohio News Media Association’s Osman C. Hooper statewide contest for non-daily newspapers. The e-book is available on chagrinvalleytoday. com.

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