Woster: What if Elvis had gotten a COVID vaccine?

I’m pretty sure I was 12 when I saw the photo of Elvis getting his polio shot. I got my shot not so very long after that.


It’s the new year, and I expect that some of the first news I hear when I settle in front of the television with a cup of coffee will be about the surge of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The original strain of COVID had a lot of us in a panic when the new year dawned in 2021. We’d been through pretty frightening, confusing times for much of 2020. The virus swept from one country to the next, from one state to the next. Infections spread rapidly, more quickly than most people, even the experts, expected. Hospitalizations and deaths mounted faster than I could ever have imagined.

We re-learned our handwashing, which we should have been doing diligently during flu and cold seasons, anyway. We wiped down our groceries and wore masks in crowded spaces and tried to keep our distance and gave a wicked side-eye to anybody who invaded our six feet of space. Still, things seemed out of control.

At our place on the river bottom, we had cleared space at the kitchen table so our seventh-grade granddaughter could take online classes and do some of her homework. Unsure how the virus would act in a classroom setting, she and her parents opted to have her stay out of physical school for the first quarter of the fall semester of 2020. It wasn’t ideal. She missed her friends and her activities, and once we saw how school was handling things, she went back to classes. It was much better for her, but I have to admit, it was a while before I got used to not having her posted up at the kitchen table with her school tablet and a stack of textbooks. I won’t forget those days. The granddaughter won’t, either, I suppose.

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I remember on New Year’s Day of 2021 feeling, along with the ongoing uncertainty and lack of clear knowledge about the virus, a sense of hope. News reports through the fall had talked of vaccines being developed and tested. By December of 2020, two companies had received emergency approval to offer vaccines.

By New Year’s Day, it was clear that vaccination clinics would be created across the country at break-neck speed. Experts spoke of herd immunity, a concept in which enough people gain immunity to the virus through having survived it or through receiving the vaccine. The way I understand things, if enough people in a population have immunity, a virus will wither away for lack of fresh hosts to infect.

That sounded pretty good to me. Nancy and I got our first dose in February and our second dose four weeks later. In the fall of 2021, we received boosters. We enter the new year, then, as well protected as possible. Some risk is unavoidable.

I had no idea last New Year’s Day that we’d be in line for vaccine as quickly as we were. It seemed like forever at the time, but it was really remarkably fast in terms of vaccine development.

I also had no idea last New Year’s Day that a fair number of people would decide not to get vaccinated. That just made no sense to me. I usually try not to judge people, but I grew up in a time when polio was at least as frightening as COVID has been the last couple of years. I remember a newspaper photo of Elvis Presley receiving his polio shot, an event that sent the vaccination rate into orbit all across the country. Elvis, for those who don’t remember, had just played the Ed Sullivan show and had something like a third of the entire nation watching.

I’m pretty sure I was 12 when I saw the photo of Elvis getting his polio shot. I got my shot not so very long after that. Nobody took a picture of my shot, but having protection against polio sure gave my mom one fewer thing to fret over.

I’m not much good at New Year’s resolutions. I decided in the coming year to simply try to stay safe and do everything I can to avoid putting anyone else at risk. That’s a resolution I think I can keep.

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