Letter to the editor: Let’s focus on the public good

For most of his career, my father was the Director of Health in Hartford, Conn. He chose to work in public health after a short career in private practice and a couple of years in industrial medicine. He was not satisfied providing advantaged people with care — he wanted to help those who began life with a strike or two against them — people experiencing poverty, those who had not yet mastered the English language, or those who were subjects of prejudice, ignorance or powerlessness. He focused on issues like venereal disease, alcohol abuse, rat control, tuberculosis and polio vaccination. He stressed education and prevention. He believed deeply in the public good. He believed that if we all did our share, we would all be more healthy and live richer lives. He believed in helping those who needed help the most. He lived a good life dedicated to serving the public.

My oldest son is also a medical doctor. He is a pulmonary intensive care fellow. He works long hours with COVID patients in Colorado. Many die each day. He tells me that most who die are unvaccinated and regret their decision to be unvaccinated as they struggle to remain alive.

Many of these people didn’t embrace the idea of the public good that was my father’s creed. They didn’t accept that vaccination is not an issue of personal liberty, but an act that has profound community implications. They believed websites hosted by hucksters rather than the hard-won lessons of science. They didn’t realize that by remaining unvaccinated they bring greater risk to those whose medical condition is compromised and to themselves and their families. They did not realize that by being unvaccinated, they provide this dreadful virus with a host in which new and more effective killer viruses are cultivated like the recently identified omicron variant.

In my father’s day, the killer was polio. In my son’s, it is COVID. Let’s all focus on the public good and use every medically-recommended tool at our disposal — like masks and vaccinations — to reduce this public health menace.

Harry Chaucer

New Haven

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