The technical name for it is trypanophobia, which is an extreme fear of injections or hypodermic needles.  Could a new term now be about to enter the lexicon of medical mythology? 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo may have fathered a new myopic malady called Cuomophobia, defined as an unfounded fear of being politically vaccinated.  Congratulations, Gov.  Cuomophobia!  Just what the doctor ordered.

The feisty governor is intentionally or inadvertently politicizing the upcoming over-90-percent-effective Pfizer vaccine and probably now the reportedly 94.5 percent effective Moderna vaccines against COVID-19 because of his apparent mistrust of the FDA and his belief that President Trump is some kind of magical marionettist pulling the FDA’s strings.  How paranoid is this?

In his interviews on CNN and other media, the pugilistic governor is feeding into a spreading frenzy and suspicion of the Pfizer vaccine because he mistrusts the now lame-duck President and feels Trump is using it as a political tool. 

So, Cuomo has set up a panel of medical experts to review the protocols and evidence that the vaccine works even after FDA approves it.  This stems from a general belief that it’s a highly Trumpeted and politicized vaccine. 

While President Trump takes credit for Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine citing the administration’s Operation Warp Speed, Pfizer said the company has not taken government funds to develop its vaccine so it was not part of that program.

The company did, however, sign an agreement to sell 100 million doses to the Department of Health and Human Services once the vaccine is authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and Trump has for months been beating the drums for producing a vaccine at warp speed and preparing for its mass distribution.

 Undoubtedly, Cuomo’s tribunal is going to delay and maybe deter millions from getting the shot that could save their life and the lives of others around them.

Now, how ironic is this?

Elvis to the rescue

Once New York Health Authorities were leaders in paving the way for new vaccines by convincing suspicious and fearful New Yorkers they were safe and effective.  And once they used Elvis Presley as the captivating guinea pig.  

In the 1950’s, fear of the new Salk vaccine was rampant as thousands of teenagers were afraid to take a vaccination to protect themselves against the scourge of that time, polio.

The Salk vaccine against polio had just been produced and millions of young children were being vaccinated.  Teenagers, who were also vulnerable to polio, however, were not taking the vaccine.

Here’s what the New York City Department of Health did to combat that problem.  It launched a massive publicity campaign to promote vaccination against polio.  The following year almost 900 thousand New Yorkers were vaccinated, and the number of new cases declined sharply.

Gotham goes to zero

A highlight of the campaign occurred backstage at CBS Studio 50 before an airing of The Ed Sullivan Show.

It was there that New York City Commissioner of Health Leona Baumgartner held the arm of Elvis Presley as Assistant Commissioner Harold Fuerst administered the polio vaccine to the king of rock n roll, Elvis Presley.  And so, Elvis was recruited to boost teenager take-up of the polio vaccine.

In 1963, the health commissioner at that time announced that vaccination had reduced the number of new cases in Gotham to zero.

It was one of Presley’s most valiant ventures. The king of rock’n’roll had just been enjoying his first taste of success with singles such as Heartbreak Hotel, when he was given that unexpected medical challenge. Would he agree to be vaccinated against polio in front of the press before the show? He did.

The resulting photographs were published in newspapers across the US. “Presley Receives a City Polio Shot,” announced The New York Times.

The publicity was part of a bid to help correct a major flaw in the nation’s polio vaccination campaign.

The publicity closed the “immunization gap” that exists between those who get vaccines for diseases and those who do not and most assuredly, thanks to Gov. Cuomo there will be those leery about taking the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19.

So, there are vestiges of that same fear in people today who’ll need to be coaxed or persuaded that newly developed vaccines against COVID-19, such as the one from Pfizer, are not only effective, but safe.

So perhaps President Elect Biden, you’d better start recruiting rappers and other singing stars and celebrities to take the first shots so we don’t have people  questioning the safety and avoiding a vaccine more than 90 percent effective.

And if they don’t take the shot, Gov. Cuomo, they may wind up checking themselves into the Heartbreak Hotel.