I’m writing you, and others like you, this open letter.
As I write this, you’re a healthy if not overly anxious 70 year old man. You were very fortunate growing up, as you rarely had tales of ill health. Heck, YOUR parents are still alive at 94 years old! Vitality and vigour is not something that your family lacks. Yet, this historic vitality has led you towards complacency. You go to the gym multiple times a week ‘for fun’, can walk miles and miles, and see nothing wrong with the fact that you haven’t had a vaccination in decades.
I love you. Since I met your son, and then met you, I loved you for being his father. I love you for being the kind, upstanding man who raised the man I love. I would love to see you live to your father’s age – or beyond! – but to do that, you need to stay fit and healthy.
And you’re at risk.
As a 70-year-old, no matter how fit you are, one bad flu will knock you off your feet. I’ve seen how the average cold makes it hard for you to leave the house, and you work so hard during the week that you wouldn’t have any energy reserves left if an illness caught you by surprise. I’m not calling you weak by any means – that’s just the risks you experience when you’ve survived past the age of 65.
I know your family is incredibly long-lived, but for me it’s rare to see a family member live past 70. This is new and unfamiliar territory for me, and I want to keep you around as long as possible. I feel so privileged to have met your parents, who both look capable of celebrating a century, and I’d love that for you as well.
And it’s not just me. I’m not just urging you to update your vaccinations for me, but for the future children I want to introduce you to.
See, your family is pretty small right now. It’s just you, your wife, my husband, and myself. Our Christmas gatherings are pretty cosy and merry, but I’d like to see it grow and liven up. In the next 3 years, I want to make our little family of 4 into a family of 5, and with that comes new risks, new challenges, and new adventures.
The rest of your family – your brothers and sister, your nieces and nephews – are all overseas. Introducing you to an infant will certainly stretch your limits of activity, engagement and patience, but I know you can do it. Every time your son mentions our plans for a home and for family your eyes light up. You don’t think we can see it, but I can. I know how much you and your wife want this.
But you can’t meet your grandchild if your vaccinations aren’t up to date. I love you, and I know it will make you happy, but I can’t risk the life of my children so un-vaccinated family can see them when they’re young.
Because you haven’t had a vaccine in over 10 years, you’re at risk of contracting everything that would kill your grandchild. They haven’t had the time to build up an immunity that you have, so at the very least…they’d be off limits to you for the first two months. That’s two months of cuddles, two months of smiles, and two months of getting to know your face that you’d miss out on. But, getting all your vaccines topped up in the final months of my pregnancy might be too late. What if you fall ill before then? What if you catch a bad flu virus, and it weakens you to the point where you’re not active anymore?
Me, your son, and your future grandchildren, all want you to live a long and healthy life. We want you around for birthdays and christmases, and ‘Grandparent’s Day’ at Primary School. We want you to take them for walks along the river, and read them stories. We want you to kick soccer balls, and go to the parks, and build sandcastles. There’s a lot of fun in store for you for the next 20+ years, and we look forward to seeing it.
So, do this for me. Do this for your son, and your grandchildren. But most importantly, do this for yourself. Please update your vaccines so your immune system is fighting fit. Go to your GP and ask for your adult vaccine schedule so you’re ready for the future. Use the admirable moral fortitude that I love you for, and take care of your health.
In Australia, most of these vaccines are free for you, and I’ve met your GP – he’s really nice. If you like, I’ll take you our for a pint afterwards – because sometimes it’s nice to reward yourself for a job well done.
Take care – I’ll see you soon!