As a second-grader, Diane Davis remembers standing in a school auditorium waiting to get a polio vaccination. Afterward, she received a pin that said, “Polio Pioneer.” She was proud to wear it because even as a child she recognized the importance of the vaccine.
Davis says she felt that same pride after she and her husband, Robert, became two of thousands of seniors ages 70-plus to receive COVID-19 vaccinations from Tidelands Health. As of March 3, the health system had administered more than 27,900 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, including more than 21,900 doses to individuals 70 and older.
Davis, a retired nurse, knows the vaccine is not only vital for her own safety but also for the safety of the community.
“Maybe not in my lifetime, but maybe one day COVID will be totally wiped out like smallpox and polio,” says the 74-year-old Murrells Inlet resident.
Although she was vaccinated and never contracted polio, Davis vividly recalls the impact of the disease on others. Her grandfather walked with a slight limp caused by a mild case of polio he experienced as a child, and a neighbor down the street from her family’s home in Connecticut had an iron lung on the front porch.
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“Kids with polio were put in those when the disease attacked their lungs. This was in the days before respirators. It worked like a vacuum, making the chest expand. That’s the only way they could live,” she says.
The tremendous benefits of the polio vaccine were evident when Davis attended nursing school in the 1960s. One day, while studying at Yale New Haven Hospital, she came across a room filled with iron lungs that were no longer needed.
“The polio vaccine also helped make those iron lungs obsolete,” she says.
A strong believer
After graduating from nursing school, Davis spent the next 50 years working in hospitals and home care settings. During that time, she says she saw the lingering effects of the polio epidemic.
“I took care of people who had post-polio syndrome. Their symptoms got worse as they aged,” she says.
That’s why Davis says she strongly believes in immunization and says it’s vital to take the other steps, such as social distancing and wearing a mask, to help prevent the spread of the disease.
As soon as she and her husband were eligible to get vaccinated, they jumped at the chance. The appointment-only Tidelands Health vaccination site where they were vaccinated was well-organized and social distance was properly maintained, she says.
“We brought books thinking we’d be waiting in line, but they were right on time,” she says. “We had to wait 15 minutes afterward (for observation), but we were out in 25 minutes tops,” she says.
“I know some people who have had symptoms from the inoculation, but both my husband and I had nothing more than a sore arm for a couple of days. It’s a small price to pay,” she says.