Acuitas: (noun) insight, perception, sharpness.

How Elvis Helped to Save Lives

Did you know that Elvis played a role in promoting the polio vaccine? According to this interesting piece by Smithsonian Magazine, in the mid-1950s, teenagers and young adults were reluctant to get the vaccine. They thought that polio was only a risk for younger children, which wasn’t true. This perception was a cause for concern for health authorities and they worked to change the minds of the parents, young adults and teens.

At that time, Elvis was one of the most popular entertainers in the U.S., and health officials recruited him to help move the needle of public opinion when it came to who needed to get a polio vaccine. Elvis agreed to help and he was photographed getting vaccinated. This photo ran in newspapers all over the country. Historians believe that this campaign with Elvis helped to increase the number of people who got the vaccine.

There is more to the story, however. Some believe that while having Elvis’s vaccine photo published in newspapers around the country was a good thing, it may have been teens themselves who really helped to push the increase. The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (now the March of Dimes) started a youth group called Teens Against Polio that produced brochures and other materials aimed at young adults and teens. Teens helped to develop, produce and distribute these materials to their friends, neighbours and others in their communities. Experts say that this helped to change the minds of those who thought they were too old to be at risk. Peer-to-peer communication created an opportunity for teens to talk to each other about the vaccine, which was important. Think about it – these teens may have been the original “influencers” – even before social media!

Vaccines save lives. That is a fact. The World Health Organization estimates that “at least 10 million deaths were prevented between 2010 and 2015 thanks to vaccinations delivered around the world. Many millions more lives were protected from the suffering and disability associated with diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, whooping cough, measles, and polio.” Getting a COVID-19 vaccine will help to save lives too.

If you speak with someone who is worried about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, it is important to provide them with the facts so that they can make an informed decision. The Government of Canada has some great information on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines here: Be kind and compassionate with those who have concerns – and share the facts with them. The truth has a way of helping people to see what they should do.

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