To shoot or not to shoot. Vaccines aren’t always a quandry.

Last week I finally got the shingles vaccination that I had waited several years to receive. I know how old and pathetic I must sound. Still, my father and a brother both had shingles when they were alive. It sounded like a living hell.

I had the chickenpox as a young man and so I was a supposed walking target for shingles.

Around 1-in-3 will develop shingles in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

 “Anyone who has recovered from chickenpox may develop shingles; even children can get shingles,” says the CDC. “However the risk of shingles increases as you get older. About half of all cases occur in men and women 60 years old or older.”

The same virus that causes chickenpox — varicella zoster virus — causes shingles. If I had a supposition, I would suppose that the 60-year-plus age when shingles tend to occur most was a reason that the Veterans Affairs people told me I had to wait until age 60 to receive the shingles vaccine. Then one day, when I was 58 years old or so, I saw a sign in the VA and later one in a pharmacy that said one could get the vaccine at age 55. So I scheduled a shot but later had to cancel it because I was having arthroscopic knee surgery. That finally went on by and about two weeks ago I had a flu shot. It was followed a week later by the shingles vaccine.

I know that a lot of younger folks with kids are against vaccines, worrying that vaccinations may cause all kinds of maladies, like congenital autism, diabetes or multiple sclerosis. Whether these younger parents actually knew folks who suffered diseases some of the 20th century vaccines prevented — like polio, even seemingly benign diseases that could cause death such as measles — I don’t know.

I suppose it would be a fair question to ask why chickenpox was not knocked out by some shot? Well actually, there is now a vaccine as the government licensed one in 1995. Chickenpox, for most people, is a walk in the park considering the other childhood diseases most of us growing up in the 60s suffered such as German measles (rubella), the red measles (Rubeola) or the mumps. The latter, a disease of the salivary glands were always scary-sounding to us little boys because of its seldom ability to “go down,” meaning it could cause testicular atrophy leading to sterility. Of course, it was even scarier when you didn’t know what the hell people were talking about!

When I was a small fry I got all of those shots one needed. Of course, they hurt like hell. I am convinced that people who gave shots to kids for anything at all either didn’t know how to give it so it would not hurt, or else they were taking their day-to-day frustrations out on us little ones rather than on a swig of Jesus in a jar.

I had shots for everything when I was in the Navy. I swear some of the diseases must have been made up. I felt a little peaked after some of the shots. A few of the vaccines I received were given with some kind of gun. The only vaccine that made me really ill was for Yellow Fever. I spent the night shaking with chills in the dispensary at Boot Camp. For some reason, the corpsmen put me in an ice-cold shower. Ta-da! it didn’t work.

There may have been some environmental reasons behind some of the medical problems I have today: Type 2 diabetes, palsy, whatever that’s causing my lower back problems. I don’t know, as a people we tend to think something singular causes everything. I have had some exposure to some questionable substances and I’m not talking about the ones that makes objects appear closer than they really are. I was exposed to a place where leaking barrels of Agent Orange were stored. The old late 1940s destroyers on which I rode for a year was stuffed full of asbestos. And maybe I am wrong, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if those old buildings I worked in for about two decades that held printing machines and massive amounts of ink and chemical were a formula for a “sick building.”

I don’t know but I can tell you I never had diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, smallpox or Yellow fever. Those kind of things would have ruined your day, for sure.