Cancer Vaccines? Sign Me Up.

person holding syringe and vaccine bottle

When Jonas Salk discovered the vaccine for polio, there was, literally, a celebration in the United States.

Church bells rang. People were ecstatic and couldn’t wait to get their kids in for a shot.

Then, there was a tragic mistake when the vaccine first rolled out. In one manufacturing facility, the process for killing the virus didn’t work. Inactivated virus was supposed to be in the vaccine. This plant accidentally used live virus samples. So, instead of getting vaccinated, 200,000 children got the wrong mix, and 40,000 of them got polio. Ten died. But once the source of the error was found and corrected, parents resumed signing up their kids to get vaccinated.

Because they knew it was a miracle of science.

New Vaccines are Coming

I thought about this when Moderna announced last week that it expects to have vaccines for some types of cancer and other life-threatening diseases by the end of this decade. A vaccine for melanoma is also proving effective at preventing a recurrence of skin cancer. What will the argument against them be based on? I seriously doubt the social media giants will have gotten any better at eliminating disinformation.

Like the polio vaccine, one of the Covid-19 shots also had a problem. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was believed to cause a rare blood-clotting condition. Six people got serious blood clots and one died. The vaccine was paused until the investigation concluded. Vaccinations resumed with new guidelines about who should get this particular one, and symptoms to watch for. But instead of resuming widespread trust in science, this incident only propped up the argument against getting vaccinated.

We have so much information available to us, true and untrue. A whole segment of the population now thinks science is just the opinion of a bunch of eggheads. Heck, millions think the earth is flat!

Sure, it’s healthy to question things. But there has to come a point where you trust people who know a lot more, and believe they are trying to create a better world for the rest of us. I’m not a chemist so I need to trust the people who put together my medication the same way I trust a radiologist to read my X-ray or scan. How can I argue with them when I don’t have the same level of knowledge? Simple: I can’t.

The Polio Vax Was Popular

In the days of polio, the US President led the way because he had polio. In the early days of Covid-19, the US had a President who cared only about himself. Somehow, even today, he convinces people to send him money even while he flies around in a private jet.

Polio also had the March of Dimes. Your neighbour would collect money – as little as a dime – for the polio eradication effort. People knew less about polio so they were more eager to get rid of it. The March of Dimes enlisted the help of beloved stars like Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland to join in the effort. Kids got the polio vaccine because their parents didn’t want them to get polio. End of story.

The Celebrity Factor

Another major health science announcement last week came from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Scientists there have proven that a certain protein can predict whether someone will develop Parkinson’s. Currently, only a spinal tap can detect it. They hope to make it simpler to find, like in a nasal swab, and diagnose kids when they’re toddlers.

We’ve all been watching Michael J. Fox struggle with Parkinson’s. Doctors diagnosed him at 29. He went public about it seven years later. Now at 61, he recently fell and broke several bones. Everybody loves Michael J. Fox. We want him to win this battle and find ways to make it easier for the next generation of Parkinson’s patients.

I thought maybe that was the difference between vaccine hesitancy and rooting for someone like Michael J Fox – our love for the guy. We lost so many great people to Covid-19 and vaccine nay-sayers held fast to their stance. John Prine. Charley Pride. Dawn Wells. Tom Seaver. Meat Loaf. Nick Cordero, who was just 41. Nearly 7-million deaths around the world.

Would things have been different if a Michael J Fox-level celebrity had died from Covid-19? Hard to say, except that I wouldn’t wish that fate on anybody. But when cancer vaccines become available, you can bet I’ll be there to roll up my sleeves.

We recently had a conversation with a new pal and he revealed that he’s had leukemia for a decade. His oncologist puts him on a drug and he stays on it until it loses its effectiveness. Unfortunately, they’re running out of options. Would he hesitate to take a shot if it meant staying alive? Of course not. He’s living through what most of us only ever theorize about. I am certain that, had it been available, my late brother-in-law would have allowed surgeons to implant a device the size of a grain of sand that’s proving effective in shrinking pancreatic cancer tumours. We have no idea what having these diseases is really like. And thanks to vaccines, some of us might not ever have to know.

8 thoughts on “Cancer Vaccines? Sign Me Up.”

  1. Many know I devoted two and a half years travelling the globe with a friend pursuing treatment for his Non Hodgkins Lymphoma. After treatments world wide of every shape and description, he took chemo and radiation in Vancouver. He’s one of the fortunate ones He remained cancer free until a diagnosis again last November.
    The good news is, he is once again finished treatment and can say he’s cancer free.
    There’s a good reason why this second victory happened
    After his first battle he used his financial advantage to found a company with his GP and Oncologist. Together they developed a vaccine to attack and irradiate tumour driven cancer. It’s been in drug trials for 15 years, and meeting with tremendous success. It has prolonged life by years to many given no hope and put many others into remission .My friend has taken the vaccine faithfully since it became available. It is manufactured in Poland, and if you aren’t aware, is a world leader in the production of pharmaceuticals .
    Through the trials it was also discovered to battle Crohn’s Disease with tremendous success, sending many into sustained remission.
    This has been passed for distribution all over the world, but Canada continues to throw roadblocks.
    The idea that a Covid-19 vaccine was “thrown together” in a lab is incorrect. Research scientists work constantly developing vaccines to combat potential infections like Corona Virus.
    The vaccine I mention is available through trial and faced with a cancer diagnosis of any type, just as you mention, I’d roll up my sleeve too.

  2. Healthy scepticism is always good. Its perception bias coupled with misinformation and the whole-hearted belief in that information and word of mouth by others without question and many die.

    1. That’s what I love about science. One scientist says something is a fact and then waits for others in their field to disprove it. It’s not about ego or who’s right or wrong (except for career advancement!) but it’s to get to the truth.

      If someone’s theory is disproved years later, that doesn’t make the first person wrong. It means there’s new information. It’s the same with anything based in science. Go science!

  3. Life is filled with choices. Some choose to take the vaccine others did not. This is your right to make the choice and no one should have the power to tell you what you must choose. Blind trust in the media is like Russian Roulette as you only see through the media’s eyes and they tend to follow their pay check or beliefs. Taking the wait and see approach has taught me quite a few things in the past three years. Who my real friends are, who to believe and who to question, how to react to people who think they know because they watch the news. But bottom line it’s your decision how to proceed with your life. I wish everyone health and happiness no matter what choice you make.

  4. Gosh, this was incredibly informative. I don’t know how I missed the Moderna cancer vaccine story, or that Michael J. Fox had fallen and been badly hurt, but you broke that news to me. I agree that I’ll take the vaccine for cancers, and yes, I’ve signed up for my spring booster. I trust science. Not the online so-called experts who have been proven to be, in a large part, Russian based misinformation spreaders. Why? Who knows. But I trust science. It’s not perfect, but if it comes to choosing between Dr. Fauci and some nameless account that claims to know better, I’ll choose a man who has dedicated his life to the betterment of humankind every. single. time.

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