By Nrsimhananda Prabhu
At the age of 73 years, I am in the so-called “high risk category” for COVID-19 so I decided to get vaccinated.
My vaccination story, however, begins in the 1950s when I was a child and another virus was overtaking America and the world.
As a small boy, I saw scary magazine photos of young children lying inside riveted, cylindrical devices called “iron lungs” (now relics of the past). Polio, an infectious viral disease affecting the central nervous system, was crippling kids like me or paralyzing their diaphragms so that many couldn’t breath without this “iron lung.”
At the height of the polio outbreak of my childhood, the disease was infecting nearly 60,000 children annually. Spread virally like COVID-19 today, polio proved fatal for two out of three victims afflicted with paralysis.
Dr. Jonas Salk and Dr. Albert Sabin were virologists who developed separate vaccines to combat the dreaded polio virus, One vaccine was made from killed virus and the other from live virus. Though millions of parents rushed to get their young children vaccinated, teenagers weren’t interested.
In those days a rock’n’roll singer named Elvis Presley made a guest appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, the most popular TV show of the time. Unknown to his TV audience of millions, Elvis wasn’t there just to perform. Before singing “Hound Dog,” Elvis rolled up his sleeve and got vaccinated.
Despite the literally crippling effects of the virus and the promising results of vaccination, many Americans simply weren’t getting vaccinated. In fact, before Elvis famously appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, immunization levels among U.S. teens were at an abysmal 0.6 percent. After Elvis got his jab on the The Ed Sullivan Show, vaccination rates among U.S. youth soared to 80 percent after just six months.
As a veteran of many surgeries from bunions to open heart, I have experienced the benefits of medical science, whether allopathic, Ayurvedic, Chinese or herbalogic. Many devotees are still with us due to Krishna’s mercy and the sophistication of medical science. Prabhupada told us to use “whatever works.”
Nearly all public health authorities, epidemiologists and virologists recommend getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Our ISKCON devotee doctors advocate getting vaccinated as well. Why should I dismiss the judgment of hundreds of devotee doctors who are members of the Bhakti Vedanta Medical Association? Or the learned conclusions of the Chief Physician of the Bhaktivedanta Hospital & Research Institute in Mumbai? Or the decisions of a majority of GBC members who have gotten vaccinated or are planning to get vaccinated despite the absence of any official GBC policy recommending vaccination against COVID-19?
I have been the beneficiary of the good intentions and talents of medical professionals. There is always a chance of an adverse reaction, but the risk is statistically insignificant. Srila Prabhupada got vaccinated. His actions speak louder than any words.