With the onslaught of media surrounding the topic of childhood vaccinations today, there has been a spotlight cast about the topic on a generation, most unassuming. With fervent activism on behalf of British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield touting the link between autism and vaccinations in his 1998 now retracted piece in The Lancet weekly medical journal, Newsweek , vaccination rates today have substantially dropped among children in the UK and the US with many parents opting out. Focusing on the children of today has not altogether overshadowed a reality now plaguing children of yesteryear. Nearly 75% of all Hepatitis C cases in the United States are individuals in the Baby Boom generation.
(ALL PHOTOS: FOX PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES)
The individuals who rode the nothing-to-see-here, behind-closed-doors, tight-lipped, white picket-fenced wave of the 50s straight through to Bob Dylan’s Basement Tape recordings at ‘Big Pink’ in the late 60s, to the colossal counterculture shake up of the 70s, have become the poster children for one of the most stigmatized viruses in history. The cohort taking space as the largest populous in the US until just last year with the Millennial generation rounding first, have found themselves facing somewhat of an epidemic. Commercials of healthy, middle class, caucasian 50 and 60 somethings on TV repping their Hepatitis C medication proves an unlikely image for the virus associated with shared needles, drug deals and unprotected sex.
There is no one concrete answer as to why. While many individuals attribute it to lack of awareness in the 80s and 90s in the medical field by way of blood transfusions and administration of medications, some individuals feel it started way before that. Some Baby Boomers think it started in childhood with vaccinations. The 40s brought vaccinations for smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis with polillo added to the bill by the late 50s. Many of them remember a time in schools where everyone would line up for their vaccines and receive a shot administered to all the students by one needle.
Harper’s Magazine’s June exposé on the tuberculosis crisis in Alabama’s Black Belt, HARPERS makes evident there is still a place for vaccines in this country. Major breakthroughs are happening in the way of prevention of some of the most stigmatized and deadly viruses in our recent history. PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis, street name Truvada, is now on the market for individuals who may be at high risk for HIV and want to prevent contraction. Although in pill form, it proves promising and exciting for a potential of vaccination in the future.
While it’s important to consider what long term effects vaccines may have, it’s another to consider how far safety in the administeration of them has come. And beyond that the power collective conversation ensues around marginalized individuals and the diagnoses that have historically been associated with them.