Courtesy March of Dimes
Sixty-four years in the past, residents of this tiny city in southwestern Kansas set a public well being instance by making it the primary within the nation to be absolutely inoculated towards polio.
It is a completely different story at the moment.
Folks in Safety, like these in lots of rural communities, stand divided over the right way to gradual the unfold of the coronavirus and the protection of the vaccines being rolled out to guard them.
“Lots of people nonetheless consider it [COVID-19] is made up and that it isn’t as unhealthy because the media is saying,” says Steve Herd, a 72-year-old farmer who was within the third grade on the day nearly each resident of Safety underneath age 40 bought a polio shot.
Jim McLean/Kansas Information Service
In the present day, some within the city of about 400 people insist that the federal authorities “invented” the coronavirus in order that it might pressure folks to take a vaccine containing a microchip that would monitor their actions, Herd says.
In 1957, Herd says, “We did not have individuals who believed such loopy stuff.”
Safety steps up
Safety’s “Polio Protection Day” happened on April 2, 1957. Households, many dressed of their Sunday greatest, lined up in the highschool health club to get photographs from nurses wearing starched white uniforms.
That occasion, sponsored by what was then referred to as the Nationwide Basis for Childish Paralysis (now the March of Dimes), obtained widespread media protection.
The Herd household was entrance and heart. Herd, his mother and father and 4 siblings had been chosen to trip on the principle float in a celebratory parade, he says, as a result of they appeared “common” and since his sister, Cheryl, had survived a bout with polio.
Courtesy March of Dimes
“Mother made us particular shirts so we’d look good for the event,” he says.
Six a long time later, the city’s position in kicking off the polio vaccination marketing campaign stays some extent of delight memorialized by a small monument in entrance of the outdated publish workplace.
“We had been an instance,” Herd says, “of all people coming collectively to attempt to do one thing good.”
Stan Herd is 2 years youthful than his brother, Steve. An artist famend for distinctive crop and panorama works, he now lives in Lawrence, the place the College of Kansas is positioned.
Recalling the occasion, he says there was no debate concerning the vaccine or the city’s position in selling it. Everybody thought: “That is what we’re alleged to do.”
Jim McClean/Kansas Information Service
Not at the moment
Steve cannot think about the neighborhood coming collectively in an identical manner in 2021.
“Not an opportunity,” he says. “It will be unattainable as a result of we would all take sides.”
The political fault strains which have difficult nationwide and state efforts to include the coronavirus run deep in Safety and Comanche County. With COVID-19 circumstances rising late final yr, county commissioners refused to implement Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s statewide masks order.
“The massive distinction between 1957 and 2021 is that the polio vaccination occasion was apolitical. The COVID vaccine has gotten political,” says David Webb, a retired instructor and unofficial native historian, who additionally participated within the mass vaccination occasion as a grade schooler.
The county has a inhabitants of simply over 1,700 and has recorded 153 COVID-19 cases and nine deaths. Due to the timing of a few of these deaths, the county just lately appeared atop a nationwide listing of COVID-19 hotspots.
That, says Jerri McKnight, director of the Comanche County Well being Division, wasn’t correct “as a result of the information was pulled once we had three deaths in a one-week interval.”
Sufficient, she says, to quickly skew the numbers in a county with such a small inhabitants.
The well being division is getting a “good response” to a survey on its web site that doubles as a vaccination sign-up sheet, McKnight says. However she’s additionally getting a lot of questions from folks skeptical of the vaccine.
Some are anxious about security, on condition that it was developed so rapidly.
“That is a giant concern,” she says.
A latest study by the Kaiser Family Foundation discovered that individuals residing in rural areas are much less prepared to get the COVID-19 vaccine than these residing in cities and suburbs.
Solely three in 10 (31%) say they are going to “undoubtedly get” the vaccine, in comparison with 4 in 10 folks in city and suburban areas.
McKnight can be listening to from individuals who consider a number of of conspiracies circulating concerning the vaccine, together with the one concerning the monitoring chip.
“Yeah, I hear that,” she says.
Folks consider false data unfold on social media, she says, as a result of it comes from sources that many belief in a county that President Donald Trump carried with 82% of the vote.
“I hate to say that it bought pulled in with politics,” she says, “however it completely did.”
Jim McLean is the senior correspondent for the Kansas Information Service. You possibly can attain him on Twitter @jmcleanks or electronic mail jim (at) kcur (dot) org.
The Kansas Information Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and Excessive Plains Public Radio targeted on well being, the social determinants of well being and their connection to public coverage. Kansas Information Service tales and pictures could also be republished by information media for gratis with correct attribution and a hyperlink to ksnewsservice.org