Paul Wolber: And You Will Be Grateful

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When Paul Wolber thinks of vaccine hesitancy, he hears the voice of his mother, long ago, giving some instructions many would do well to heed today.

I like to tell people younger than me that I'm old enough that I survived all those diseases no one catches anymore. That's an exaggeration. I did get measles, mumps, chicken pox, scarlet fever and so many ear infections that I was deaf for a year.

However, I never caught the scourge of my cohort: polio. But it was a close thing. For the first few years of my life, my mother kept close watch over me each summer, staying away from public swimming pools and other perceived sources of infection. I still remember being trundled off to Clara Barton Elementary School in northwest Detroit to receive the Salk vaccine. As we waited in line, my mother whispered none-too-softly in my ear, “You will take your shot without any crying or carrying on, and you will be grateful!"

The vaccine worked, despite its crudeness and occasional safety issues. In my life, I have known several people with leg braces or withered limbs that trace back to a polio infection, but all have been my age or older.

My life experience inevitably informs my opinion of COVID vaccine hesitancy. I was a member of the biotechnology community for all my working life and followed the development of the mRNA vaccines closely. I trust the work and the community and was vaccinated as soon as possible. I'm willing to admit that not everyone shares my experience and might have trust issues with the biomedical community.

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But I really wish that someone each vaccine doubter trusts as much as I trusted my mother would pull them aside and whisper in their ear, "You will take your shot without any crying or carrying on, and you will be grateful!"

With a Perspective, I’m Paul Wolber.

Paul Wolber is a scientist and technical manager in Silicon Valley's biotech industry.