“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within...”
Romans 12:2

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Hilary's Desk

4 of 5: My Grandmother's world in my head

Hilary Butler - Tuesday, November 11, 2008

So you think about the really bad days in the 19th century and decide to look at your family tree. Looking at the death causation in your 5 century old family tree, you start to wonder how all of your ancestors survived in those REALLY bad old days when diphtheria, polio, measles, mumps, whooping cough and the plague stalked the earth, and they didn’t have vaccines for most of those things.

You talk to all your grandparents on both sides, asking, “How many in our family ever got haemophilus? To which they reply, “What’s haemophilus?” You ask them about Streptococcus Pneumoniae, and just like the powerpoint admits, they haven’t the foggiest what that is either.

You ask them about measles, mumps and they blink and say, “everyone just got them, and got on with life afterwards” because that’s what the outcome was for 99.9% of people. Many of them will tell you that whooping cough was okay most of the time, and maybe sometimes a young baby would get a serious bout. If you’re unlucky like us, you might have one person in your family tree who got tetanus! Polio. Some of you might have had the odd case in your family tree, but most families only KNOW of someone who did, and that’s understandable since the strike rate of polio was 4.3 people for every 1,000 people around at the time. So yes, chances are most families didn’t experience polio either.

If you try to tell the medical profession about the hearty health so evident in your family tree, they will tell you that THAT might be the case for YOUR ancestors, but many other people’s ancestors didn’t survive! They can always find stories from other people’s families to make you scared witless, because, yes, the data does show people got sick and died.

Let’s talk about which babies died in your family and from what?. If your family tree lists death causation, how many would have been “saved” with today’s vaccines?

I have a HUGE family tree, which goes back to 1500, and on MY side of the family there are NO DEATHS from immunable diseases in the baby schedule, not even smallpox, before vaccines came along. On my husband’s side, there is one adult death from tetanus. And given that that was at a time when UK deaths from tetanus ran at about 1 per 250,00 per annum, either that person was very unlucky, or the whole of the rest of the huge family tree was very lucky. Take your pick.

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