I Have Never Had A Tetanus Vaccination — And I Was Told, In My 40s, That I Probably Didn’t Need One.
Growing up in third-world Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) 1950 — 1967 we did not get many vaccination. The only one I know, for sure, that I got was the oral (i.e., in a sugar cube) polio vaccine c. 1962. As I have chronicled many times on this blog, we, the brown kids of Ceylon, unbeknownst to us were used to try out the vaccine. Well, we did fine (thank you). My maternal uncle was the then Director of Health for Ceylon and this probably was his doing. He was far thinking. I, alas, never got to talk to him about this.
As I child I caught and suffered through measles & mumps — and, quite memorably, typhoid from drinking some unboiled water before my adoptive mother could stop me. I caught chicken pox from my elder kids when I was in my late 30s — and nobody told me that it is pretty serious in adults. All I knew was that my doctor did not want me to come in!
Now to tetanus. Never was vaccinated for it in Ceylon — and as a raggamuffin who played a lot of street cricket I got plenty of cuts and scratches. I probably had some exposed injury every day. Vaccinations also were not big in the U.K. in the 1970 – 1980. I don’t recall anybody asking me whether I had had a tetanus vaccination in the UK.
The question as to my tetanus shot only started to come up in the U.S. — particularly after the mid-1990s. I would get asked at my physical. I would decline.
Eventually, over the years, I had two conversations with U.S. doctors — who were friends of mine at the time. They both said that it was probably pointless for me to get a tetanus shot post-40. According to them my body probably had built up enough antibodies to tetanus over the years. “If you haven’t had tetanus by now, and you grew up in a tropical country … you are probably safe by now.” That made sense to I.
So, I am just sharing this for the record.
Also, for the record, I have nothing against vaccinations. All the kids have had all the required vaccinations and a FEW optional ones. Yes, I have said no to a few that seemed superfluous. And for the last 6 or 7 years, I and the two youngest kids, have also got the flu shot every year — without fail. Last year, upon turning 65, I even got a pneumonia shot. So, do not accuse me of anything. Just stating the facts about tetanus.