Children receive first polio vaccine

Children receive first polio vaccine

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On February 23, 1954, a group of children from Arsenal Elementary School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, receive the first injections of the new polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk.

Though not as devastating as the plague or influenza, poliomyelitis was a highly contagious disease that emerged in terrifying outbreaks and seemed impossible to stop. Attacking the nerve cells and sometimes the central nervous system, polio caused muscle deterioration, paralysis and even death. Even as medicine vastly improved in the first half of the 20th century in the Western world, polio still struck, affecting mostly children but sometimes adults as well. The most famous victim of a 1921 outbreak in America was future President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then a young politician. The disease spread quickly, leaving his legs permanently paralyzed.

WATCH: Modern Marvels: The Polio Vaccine on HISTORY Vault

In the late 1940s, the March of Dimes, a grassroots organization founded with President Roosevelt’s help to find a way to defend against polio, enlisted Dr. Jonas Salk, head of the Virus Research Lab at the University of Pittsburgh. Salk found that polio had as many as 125 strains of three basic types, and that an effective vaccine needed to combat all three. By growing samples of the polio virus and then deactivating, or “killing” them by adding a chemical called formalin, Salk developed his vaccine, which was able to immunize without infecting the patient.

After mass inoculations began in 1954, everyone marveled at the high success rate—some 60-70 percent—until the vaccine caused a sudden outbreak of some 200 cases. After it was determined that the cases were all caused by one faulty batch of the vaccine, production standards were improved, and by August 1955 some 4 million shots had been given. Cases of polio in the U.S. dropped from 14,647 in 1955 to 5,894 in 1956, and by 1959 some 90 other countries were using Salk’s vaccine.

READ MORE: How a New Polio Vaccine Faced Shortages and Setbacks

A later version of the polio vaccine, developed by Albert Sabin, used a weakened form of the live virus and was swallowed instead of injected. It was licensed in 1962 and soon became more popular than Salk’s vaccine, as it was cheaper to make and easier for people to take. There is still no cure for polio once it has been contracted, but the use of vaccines has virtually eliminated polio in the United States and around the world. According to the World Health Organization, polio cases have been reduced by 99 percent and survives only among the world's poorest and most marginalized communities.

Read all our pandemic coverage here

Lesson Plans

Dashon Bates, 28, receives his COVID-19 vaccine as eligibility expands to anyone over the age of 16 at the Bradfield Community Center through Health Partners of Western Ohio in Lima, Ohio. March 29, 2021. REUTERS/Megan Jelinger

For the Google link, click here .


How did vaccination evolve among medical practitioners over the last 1000 years? Why have some people feared taking vaccines? This lesson explores the invention of various vaccines to fight against serious illnesses over time and asks you to think about the implications of vaccine development.

History Thursday: 1955 rollout of polio vaccine resembles COVID-19 era

Thousands of Ohio children who participated in the 1954 polio vaccine trial were given these "Polio Pioneer" buttons. Photo originally appeared in the Mansfield News-Journal newspaper.

The thousands of “Polio Pioneers” in Ohio, one official said, were short in stature but giants went it came to being medical trailblazers.

These were children in Richland and Montgomery counties who participated in a polio vaccine trial in 1954, with a nation desperate for a breakthrough against a disease that killed thousands and left many paralyzed each year.

In Richland County, around 2,700 children received either the polio vaccine created by Dr. Jonas Salk or a saline solution.

About a year later, readers of the Mansfield News-Journal woke up to see this headline on the front page: POLIO SERUM 100% EFFECTIVE IN COUNTY.

Only four children in the Richland County study ended up contracting polio. All four were found to have taken the placebo.

This was one sample of results from a nationwide test of nearly 2 million children in 44 states, with health experts reporting an overall 80-90% effectiveness for the Salk vaccine.

Around the time the Richland County results were publicized, Oveta Culp Hobby, the U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, approved the vaccine for national distribution.

Just as they would do with the COVID-19 vaccine 66 years later, Ohio’s health experts got to work educating the general public about the new polio vaccine. More than 1,000 doctors gathered at the Loew’s Theater in Cleveland to watch video on how best to administer the vaccine in their communities.

This was before the days of gubernatorial press conferences broadcast live online and on TV stations. Newspapers carried the heavy lifting in explaining what the vaccine was, what experts said about it and how Ohioans could get it.

Newspapers reported the latest developments of the polio vaccine throughout 1954 and 1955, including the Mansfield News-Journal.

Throughout April 1955, outlets such as The Circleville Herald published massive spreads about the vaccine. Its April 12 front page included a bold, all-caps headline: POLIO VACCINE SAFE, POTENT — accompanied by a helpful sidebar Q&A about the vaccine as well as another article outlining the vaccine trial results.

State Health Director Dr. Ralph E. Dwork provided reporters with copious information. A handful of firms manufactured vaccines across the country, with Ohio receiving its supply from the Eli Lilley Co. of Indianapolis and the Wyeth Corporation of Philadelphia. Direct shipments went to Cleveland and Cincinnati, with five other cities serving as regional distribution centers: Columbus, Dayton, Bowling Green, Cuyahoga Falls and Athens.

Dwork noted this distribution system relied on the close cooperation of 227 local health departments. This is almost exactly twice as many local health departments as exist now due to consolidation among city and county departments.

Dayton was an obvious choice in Southwest Ohio, with plenty of supplies left over from the Montgomery County “Polio Pioneer” trial a year before.

Or so the local health officials thought. When they returned to the storage center in April 1955, officials discovered that thousands of needles and syringes were stolen sometime after the trial ended.

“We’ve been paying storage for a year on empty cartons,” a secretary of the local polio response chapter lamented.

Dayton wound up receiving enough supplies that month to get the widespread vaccination program going. This was welcome news in nearby Yellow Springs, where officials vaccinated 152 elementary school children on April 26 — including a second-grade student named Mike DeWine. The future governor was pictured on the front page of the Yellow Spring News two days later wincing while receiving his shot.

Rebuilding public confidence

In late April, there were reported issues on the west coast with the vaccine supply from one of the five manufacturers. A number of children in California were found to have contracted polio after receiving the vaccine there.

U.S. Surgeon General Leonard Scheele ordered the vaccines from Cutter Laboratories to be withdrawn while health officials could review these cases.

These troubling headlines made Ohio parents worried about vaccinating their children, even though the state’s supply came from separate companies than the one facing scrutiny.

Newspapers tried to give readers answers about the new polio vaccine.

Vaccine hesitancy grew in the months that followed. Some parents refused to schedule vaccine appointments for their kids or had the children skip out on those that were already scheduled.

Dwork blamed on “lack of understanding” of the situation from families.

“Restoring Confidence Is Biggest Polio Need,” read one headline from columnist Peter Edson in early June 1955. Congressional leaders in Washington held hearings about the “Cutter incident” and discussed ways to rebuild trust in the vaccines.

By the summer, the nervousness surrounding the vaccine had dissipated a bit, though health departments had a difficult time organizing a way to get shots out to students while they were at home on break. In response, Dwork organized another major push for vaccinations in August and September when the students returned to school.

Heading into September, an estimated 6 ½ million children across the country had received at least the first shot.

Besides the school vaccinations, Congress approved a federal program to offer free shots at clinics starting in late 1955. It was deemed important throughout the rollout to make sure the vaccination was available for all families regardless of income.

The repeated coverage touting endorsements from Ohio leaders made a big difference.

“Pickaway County residents, after a skeptical start, welcomed the big advanced achieved against polio — in the form of the Salk polio vaccine,” the Circleville Herald wrote around Christmas-time in recapping the previous year. “With the aid of well-organized programs, school children in Circleville and elsewhere throughout the county received the inoculations that may lead the way to a complete defeat for the child-crippling disease.”

A look back at mass polio vaccinations of ‘50s, ‘60s

The development of the COVID-19 vaccine has caused us to look back to the Spanish Flu of 1918. But a more recent medical condition led to the development of another vaccine to address another illness, the polio vaccine of the 1950s.

Anyone older than the age of 60 probably remembers the various polio vaccines administered between 1955 and 1963.

Actually called poliomyelitis, the term was shortened to polio. The disease was shown in carvings found by archaeologists centuries ago, but was first documented in the late 1700s for its disabling and potentially fatal illness that disfigured limbs of the human body.

By the 1890s, research had been done to identify polio and determine drugs that could address the disease. Awareness of the disease came to the forefront in 1933 with the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt as president, who had been stricken with the virus and confined to a wheelchair, despite his efforts to serve in the office and have people ignore his disability.

In 1938, the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis was formed to fund efforts to eradicate polio and supported work at the University of Pittsburgh. Researchers and a team of physicians worked on a killed virus which Dr. Jonas Salk and his team felt would be safer than the live culture that was being used by other researchers.

Polio was better known to cripple children, as stated in the W.H. Warner Coal Co. newsletter of July 1948, which operated several mines in Jefferson County.

“Infantile paralysis attacks few people and many recover without crippling. Summer is the chief danger period. Practice cleanliness, avoid new contacts, avoid chilling, don’t swim in polluted waters and get your doctor’s advice.”

By 1950, polio was an epidemic and nearly every mother in the nation was concerned that her child would become ill with the virus. Success was found in the Salk vaccine and it was approved for use on April 14, 1955, and on April 28 the first 1,399 first- and second-graders in the Steubenville School System and Holy Name Schools were given the “first shot” in what was termed “Operation Lollipop.” The vaccine arrived from the Ohio Department of Health for all Steubenville school students, with Toronto and Mingo Junction to follow.

The Salk vaccine was administered in three injections and was aimed at children under the age of 18 as they were the testing group of nearly 500,000 who tested the vaccine. Vaccinations locally were managed by the city and Jefferson County health departments through schools.

A setback took place later in 1955 when the Cutter Laboratory in California had created a batch of vaccine that was found to be defective and vaccinations were stopped until the source of the problem was found and resolved.

Once corrected, the administration of the Salk vaccination continued in schools and through local doctor’s offices. A report issued in 1957 by the Ohio Department of Health states that “Steubenville’s polio immunizations program has received wide-spread praise, recognized as one of the best not only in Ohio but nationwide.”

Their records show that 50,000 ccs of the vaccine had been distributed to the estimated 27,039 students in Jefferson County schools since 1955. Special note was made to city Health Commissioner Julius A. Pizzoferrato and Dr. Robert W. Schilling, the county health commissioner. The free distribution of the Salk vaccine would be ending in June 1957 and the departments recommended that anyone under the age of 40 take advantage of program of vaccinations taking place every Friday and Saturday before it was closed down.

It was a different story in June 1959 when both commissioners issued a statement noting the “Area’s apathy toward polio shots held shame,” and sounded the alarm that many parents weren’t completing the three-shot inoculation, and some in the 1957-59 time-period had ignored the vaccine altogether. causing cases to rise. Those missing the shots were urged to get a “fourth shot,” or a booster shot, and urged adults up to age 40 to get the shot if “they are in close proximity to children” as the disease was passing forward from children to adults.

Our area was not unique in the lack of vaccinations by 1960, and there was concern that the Salk vaccination had perhaps a limited time period for coverage, and problems with the Cutter Laboratory in 1955 had scared some away from getting the vaccine.

Another researcher, Dr. Albert B. Sabin, had been working on a different vaccine which used a live virus. Testing took place outside the United States, and the Sabin vaccine was approved for testing use in the U.S. in 1961. Early testing saw four cases of paralytic polio develop in 4 million tests in Canada. Sabin recommended to continue the vaccine, stating, “What happens is that people already infected are given the vaccine and this affords no protection.”

Distribution of the Sabin vaccine continued on Sept. 15, 1962.

The Sabin vaccine was distributed in a larger region which included Jefferson, Harrison and Belmont counties in Ohio, and Marshall, Ohio, Hancock and Brooke Counties in West Virginia. This time, the first Sabin vaccine would be distributed through a “S.O.S.,” or a “Sabin On Sunday” program aimed at successfully eradicating polio.

The date in our region was Sunday, Dec. 2, 1962, at 35 clinics throughout the seven-county area. Each site would have two physicians, two nurses and at least 16 volunteers on hand for the distribution. Drs. Sanford Press and Jonathan Yobbaggy were chairmen of the Jefferson County drive. The vaccine would be stored in the freezers of the Jefferson County Home on Sunset Boulevard until it was transported to the sites the day of the S.O.S.

The Sabin vaccine was different from the Salk vaccine, as it was based on a “live virus” with three drops placed on a sugar cube which was swallowed by the individual, allowing a larger group to receive the vaccine in a shorter time. The Kroger Co., through its stores in the seven-county region, provided the needed sugar cubes upon which the vaccine was administered. Participants were asked for a 25-cent donation, if possible, for the vaccine.

Throughout November 1962, promotional materials were distributed through the media explaining the Sabin vaccine. The Type I distribution would be administered to anyone 6 weeks or older on a sugar cube, and was recommended to be taken by anyone who had already received the earlier Salk vaccine. Dr. John W. Young, the county health commissioner, issued several newspaper stories, in addition to Press and all the medical societies of the seven counties. Volunteers were assembled by Drs. Earl Rosenblum, Carl Goll and Paul W. Ruksha.

The Wintersville Citizen newspaper reported that nearly 6,000 people took the vaccine at the Wintersville clinic from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on that Sunday, one of the largest clinics attended, with more than 30 volunteers working that day. A second clinic was held a month later, and a third clinic was needed.

A make-up clinic was held for all of Jefferson County on Dec. 8, 1962, at the City Building with another 1,163 taking the vaccine, for a total number of 51,052 having received the Sabin vaccine by the end of 1962 in Jefferson County.

The S.O.S. Clinic for Type 2 of the Sabin vaccine was held Jan. 20, 1963, and more than 50,000 received the second vaccine in Jefferson County. The third S.O.S. Clinic was in March and a similar number received the final vaccine.

Further polio vaccines continued to be administered by local health departments, hospitals and doctor’s offices. Today, polio vaccine is usually administered in the first year, in three to five doses depending on the situation. Polio in the U.S. was largely eliminated by 1979. Efforts by the World Health Organization, Rotary International and other foundations began in 1988 and the Americas was polio-free in 1994. Europe was declared polio-free in 2002, but today cases still are found in some countries of Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

(Hall is the director emeritus and Grubbs works in the local history and genealogy department of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.)

What are the Types of Polio Vaccine?

Two types of vaccines protect against polio, or poliomyelitis.

  • Inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV)
    • IPV is the only polio vaccine that has been used in the United States since 2000.
    • It is given by shot in the leg or arm, depending on the patient&rsquos age.
    • Children should get four doses total, with one dose at each of the following ages:
      • 2 months old,
      • 4 months old,
      • 6 through 18 months old, and
      • 4 through 6 years old.
      • Oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV)
        • This vaccine is no longer licensed or available in the United States.
        • It is still used in some parts of the world.
        • Children receive doses of the vaccine by drops in the mouth.

        Since 2000, only IPV has been used in the United States to eliminate the risk of vaccine-derived poliovirus that can occur with OPV. This decision was also based on the decreased risk of wild poliovirus being brought into the country and because the U.S. is currently polio-free.

        The IPV that has been used in the United States since 1987 is as effective as OPV for preventing polio. Two doses of IPV provides 90% immunity (protection) to all three types of poliovirus 3 doses provides at least 99% immunity.

        Children receive first polio vaccine - HISTORY

        Stuart Blume obtained a D.Phil. in chemistry from the University of Oxford. He has worked at the University of Sussex, the London School of Economics, and for the British government. He now studies technological changes in medicine and health care. Ingrid Geesink, a sociologist, wrote her Master's thesis on the development of tissue engineering as a research field.

        In 1988, the World Health Assembly resolved that by the year 2000 paralytic poliomyelitis would be wiped off the face of the Earth. The global eradication campaign is now moving into its final stages, with valiant efforts under way to maintain polio vaccination programs, implement surveillance systems, and eliminate the last remaining reservoirs of poliovirus. As the smallpox eradication campaign showed in the 1970s, immunizing the last few hard-to-reach villagers in remote or war-stricken regions is a formidable task. But the goal of global eradication has mobilized everyone from politicians and vaccine manufacturers to health workers in the field.

        The notion of a polio-free world encourages us to look beyond 2000 with optimism, but there are also reasons to look back at the history of polio vaccine development. The first is the renewed interest in the hypothesis that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, evolved from a monkey virus that contaminated early batches of polio vaccine used in trials in the Congo in the late 1950s. This has led to the suggestion that the few remaining batches of the original polio vaccine stocks used in the Congo trials should be tested for the presence of HIV. A second reason, less widely appreciated, is the recommendation of the U.S. Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices that, beginning in January this year, children in the United States should be immunized with the inactivated (killed) polio vaccine (IPV) developed by Jonas Salk in place of the oral (live-attenuated) polio vaccine (OPV) developed by Albert Sabin (used almost exclusively in the United States for the past 35 years). This change in policy is a result of the epidemiology of the disease but also has implications for the economics of vaccine production. By comparing how the United States (where polio vaccines were developed and manufactured by private companies) and the Netherlands (where government-funded laboratories designed, developed, tested, and manufactured the entire country's supply of polio vaccine) implemented their polio vaccine programs, it becomes clear how economics and market forces mold vaccine policy.

        The bitter rivalry between the developers of the original polio vaccines, Salk and Sabin, was a contributory factor to the United States and the Netherlands choosing to pursue different polio vaccination programs. In April 1955, the results of the largest clinical trial ever held (at that time) were made public. More than 400,000 U.S. children had been immunized with Salk's IPV and, as the results of effective protection against this dreaded disease were declared, Americans breathed a collective sigh of relief. The Salk vaccine was declared 90% effective against Types II and III poliovirus and 60 to 70% effective against Type I. Within 2 hours, Salk's IPV was licensed for use. Thanks to guarantees from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (now the March of Dimes), industrial production facilities were already built and ready to operate. The goal was to have five million U.S. children vaccinated by July 1955. Across the Atlantic, some European countries imported the Salk vaccine from the United States whereas others, including Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands, began vaccine production in their own government facilities.

        Many virologists were of the opinion that Salk's vaccine could not provide long-lasting protection and that this could only be achieved with Sabin's live-attenuated version. Only a live vaccine, it was argued, had sufficient immunogenicity to provide protection. In contrast, an inactivated vaccine would have to be re-administered regularly. Undeterred by Salk's popular success, Cox and Koprowski at Lederle (Koprowski later took his candidate vaccine to the Wistar Institute) and Sabin at the University of Cincinnati continued to work on their live-attenuated virus preparations. Trials of their vaccines took place largely outside the United States because widespread immunization with the Salk vaccine meant that most U.S. children had antibody levels that were too high to enable evaluation of a second vaccine. Instead, Koprowski tested his vaccine in Northern Ireland and in (and around) the Congo, Cox in Latin America, and Sabin in the Soviet Union. By July 1960, more than 15 million Soviet citizens were said to have received Sabin's oral vaccine.

        On the basis of these trials, Sabin's vaccine was deemed the better of the two. It was found to confer longer-lasting immunity, so that repeated boosters were not necessary, and acted quickly, immunity being achieved in a matter of days. Taken orally (on a sugar cube or in a drink), the vaccine could be administered more readily than the Salk vaccine, which had to be injected. Most importantly, the Sabin vaccine offered the prospect of passive vaccination because it caused an active infection of the bowel that resulted in the excretion of live-attenuated virus. Thus, through fecal matter and sewage the Sabin vaccine could help to protect those who had not been vaccinated. In August 1960, the U.S. Surgeon General recommended licensing of the Sabin vaccine. The oral vaccine gradually supplanted its rival and by 1968, Salk's vaccine was no longer being administered in the United States, and U.S. pharmaceutical companies had stopped producing it. This interplay—between emerging consensus on the part of health authorities and physicians, and growing commitment on the part of the manufacturing industry to carry out the consensus—is a good example of technological “lock in,” a theory propounded by evolutionary economists.

        Despite the switch from the Salk to the Sabin vaccine by the United States, other countries including the Netherlands and Scandinavia continued exclusive use of the Salk vaccine even though the advantages of the live-attenuated vaccine seemed clear-cut. As early as 1962, there were growing suspicions that in a very small number of cases, largely adults, the live-attenuated vaccine could lead to paralytic poliomyelitis. In 1964, an advisory committee established by the U.S. Surgeon General reviewed the incidence of the disease between 1955 and 1961 (when only the Salk vaccine was used) and between 1961 and 1964 (when the Sabin vaccine predominated). They concluded that of the 87 cases of paralytic polio reported in the United States since 1961, 57 were judged “compatible” with having been caused by the attenuated poliovirus regaining its virulence. By the mid-1960s, health officials had to weigh the many benefits of the live-attenuated vaccine against the small but definite risks that were now known to be associated with its use.

        The rational language of risk-assessment does not reflect the real politics of decision-making. We suspect that politicians and their advisers looked at matters rather differently in the 1960s when polio was still rampant than they would now, with global eradication of this dreaded disease within reach. Given the commitments made to the general public about the Sabin vaccine and the immunization programs and manufacturing facilities already in place, was there sufficient reason for the U.S. government to change course? The costs involved in switching back to the Salk vaccine and the risk of affecting public confidence in vaccination were profound. But authorities in different countries interpreted risks and benefits differently, depending on the progress that had already been made in their own countries in reducing the incidence of the disease. Perceiving that a formidable public health battle had still to be waged to stamp out polio, the United States maintained its exclusive loyalty to Sabin's live-attenuated vaccine.

        By the early 1970s most of the world was using Sabin's oral vaccine. Because of its lower cost and long-term efficacy, the World Health Organization included the Sabin vaccine in the packet of subsidized vaccines that it provided to poor countries under the auspices of the Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI). The Sabin vaccine market was huge and continued to grow as the EPI extended its reach to more and more countries. Economics suggests that devoting resources to a technology that is being “locked out,” in this case the Salk vaccine, is not rational. Yet the Netherlands continued not only to manufacture the Salk vaccine, but also to improve upon it. Nearly half a century later, this improved Salk vaccine can be produced to current GMP (good manufacturing practice) standards and supplied to the United States. U.S. children are once more to be immunized with the Salk vaccine principally because the tiny risk of vaccine-induced poliomyelitis attributable to the Sabin vaccine is of far more concern as global eradication of polio approaches. After eradication is officially declared, vaccination will continue for a few more years, both in the United States and elsewhere. Precisely for how many more years is under international discussion.

        In the 1960s, the Dutch government research laboratory, Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid (RIV), in Bilthoven was responsible for producing the country's entire supply of Salk vaccine. Hans Cohen, a physician and microbiologist at RIV who oversaw vaccine production, decided to combine Salk's inactivated polio vaccine (produced at RIV for domestic use) with the combination vaccine that protected children against diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus (known as DKT in the Netherlands and DPT elsewhere). To do this, he needed to improve the potency of the Salk vaccine. This necessitated overcoming a major production problem: the short supply of monkey kidneys necessary to produce and test polio vaccines (both the inactivated and live-attenuated versions). The RIV used about 5000 Rhesus monkeys annually for production and testing of the Salk vaccine. These animals were largely imported from Asia, many were sick and 15 to 20% died soon after arrival. Reducing the institute's dependence on imported monkeys became a priority.

        Two microbial engineers, Paul van Hemert and Anton van Wezel, came up with a solution. Van Hemert had already developed a series of 300 to 1000 liter fermentors, the so-called “Bilthoven Unit,” in which bacteria could be grown under standard conditions (see the figure). Van Wezel adapted this unit to grow large quantities of monkey kidney cells (derived from live monkeys) and poliovirus. The area for culturing cells was increased by filling the stainless steel vessels with medium containing small plastic beads (“microcarriers”). By allowing the monkey kidney cells to grow on the surface of the beads, he increased the yield of cells and hence of poliovirus a thousandfold. By 1975, RIV's annual consumption of monkeys had been reduced to 50, and by 1978 to just 7. These could be bred at the institute so that importing monkeys was no longer necessary.

        The “Bilthoven Unit,” designed by the Dutch microbiologists van Hemert (pictured) and van Wezel, generated large quantities of poliovirus for vaccine production in the 1960s.

        Van Wezel was able to develop vaccines of any desired poliovirus concentration. In 1978 an improved Salk vaccine was tested in field trials in Mali and Upper Volta (now Burkino Faso), under the auspices of the Forum for the Advancement of Immunization Research, an organization established by Salk, Cohen, and Charles Mérieux. The vaccine was shown to confer full protection with just two doses. The Institut Mérieux (now Aventis Pasteur) subsequently succeeded in improving the Bilthoven process still further by propagating the virus in a cultured monkey kidney cell line.

        The improvements to Salk's original vaccine by RIV were not stimulated by market forces because RIV had limited interest in producing vaccines for export. On the contrary, the stimulus for improvement came both from the country's commitment to a particular immunization schedule (the combined polio and DPT vaccine) and from technical achievements that reduced dependence on wild monkeys and enabled vaccine of a high enough quality to be manufactured. Because RIV is a Dutch Ministry of Health institute, it has been insulated from market forces, and thus has not been subjected to the pressure of “lock-in” economics that affected polio vaccine manufacture in the United States.

        There has been growing international concern over the security of worldwide vaccine supplies because most vaccines are manufactured by a limited number of companies. If a particular vaccine is produced only by one company at a single facility, there is a potential risk that the supply of vaccine could dry up if the company decides for economic reasons to cease production or if the facility breaks down. There has been talk in the United States of the desirability of a publicly owned “standby vaccine production facility,” but this suggestion has not received much support. Internationally, the role of the public sector in vaccine development and production is under debate. By closing off options, “lock in” economics provide a barrier to the reintroduction of older technologies for producing vaccines and drugs. Herein lies a good reason for governments to ensure that the public sector retains the competence to produce vital vaccines and drugs.

        Letters to the Editor: Warp-speed vaccine manufacturing sickened 40,000 kids with polio in the 1950s

        To the editor: In 1955, the federal government put on a warp-speed vaccination effort. Dr. Jonas Salk followed all scientific protocols and rigorously tested his polio vaccine before it was declared safe and effective in April 1955. The federal government wanted to quickly inoculate as many children as possible with millions of vaccine doses. (“Why is the ‘anti-vaxxer’ movement growing during a pandemic?” Aug. 20)

        On the West Coast, the only manufacturer that could mass produce vaccines at warp speed was Cutter Laboratories in Berkeley. It cut corners, did not follow Salk’s formula and mistakenly produced 120,000 vaccine doses that contained the live virus.

        Forty thousand children became sick I was one of them. My father, a doctor, had given me the vaccine and never forgave himself. Fortunately I had a “mild” case, but to this day I suffer terribly from the effects of my illness.

        My family, my grandchildren, my husband and I have all had our immunizations. We all get a flu shot every year. We believe in the safety and necessity of vaccines. But let me say that I, for one, will not be first in line for this “warp speed” COVID-19 vaccine.

        These things should never be rushed.

        Planaria Price, Los Angeles

        To the editor: With all due respect, skepticism of a “Trump tainted” vaccine is in no way related to the anti-vaccination movement. The latter is a cultish rejection of science, while the former is a well-placed skepticism of anything said, done or influenced by Trump, whose motives are widely known to be exclusively self-serving.

        I myself will take a COVID-19 vaccine after it has been properly tested and vetted by actual authorities, not by any Trump press conference.

        Jeff Goodwin, Los Angeles

        To the editor: The L.A. Times Editorial Board was right when it exposed Trump’s political and self-serving motives for pressuring the FDA to fast-track COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. Trump’s tactics reveal much about his continued efforts to mislead the public.

        This was demonstrated a few weeks ago when Trump ventured to a pharmaceutical lab in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, where he declared, “We will achieve a victory over the virus by unleashing American scientific genius.”

        Trump’s language not only diverted public attention away from his administration’s incompetent handling of the pandemic, it also falsely suggested that he is responsible for a vaccine that has yet to be approved. Attributing responsibility for a “victory” to Trump would be like Winston Churchill having announced, before the Battle of Britain ended, that it was mostly he and not Royal Air Force pilots who had beaten back the German air force.

        Credit for a vaccine ought to go mainly to the scientists who dedicated themselves to finding it rather than to one who has often disparaged science, denied the pandemic’s seriousness and divided the nation over how to cope with it.

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        Polio History
        Polio was not discovered to be contagious until 1905 by Swedish physician Ivar Wickham. In 1908, Karl Lansdteiner, MD, and Erwin Popper, MD, identified and isolated the polio virus. The idea of a vaccine against polio was first introduced in 1910 as a result of research by Simon Flexner, MD. In 1935 two teams tested a polio vaccine but neither were successful and both teams infected and killed some test subjects (the scientists, chimpanzees, human adults, and children). In 1951, Jonas Salk, MD, and his team developed a method to cultivate polio virus in monkey kidney tissue in order to be able to produce large amounts of the vaccine. On Apr. 12, 1955 the results of the Salk vaccine trials showed the vaccine was 80-90% effective and the US government licensed the IPV (inactivated polio vaccine) vaccine the same day. The vaccination program was suspended on May 8, 1955 to investigate paralysis resulting from the vaccine injection changes to the production method were made and vaccination resumed on May 27, 1955. On Aug. 24, 1960, a polio vaccine (OPV oral polio vaccine) created by Albert Sabin, MD, was licensed for use in the US and recommended by US Surgeon General Leroy E. Burney, MD. In 1968 US use of Salk’s IPV vaccine was phased out. Polio was declared eradicated in the Americas on Sep. 29, 1994 by the Pan American Health Organization. An improved version of Jonas Salk’s IPV vaccine was phased in again in 1997, because OPV had an increased risk of infecting children with the virus in the first dose. In 2000 the transition to all-IPV vaccine schedule was complete.

        Below are three graphs. The first shows the number of polio cases in the United States, adults and children, from 1937 to 2013. The second graph shows the number of deaths caused by the polio virus in adults and children from 1950 to 2013. And the third graph shows the polio vaccination rates among children aged 19 to 36 months in the United States from 1980 to 2014.

        As of Aug. 18, 2014, the CDC recommends that children receive the first dose of the polio (IPV) vaccination at 2 months of age.

        Site Where Polio Vaccine Was First Tested On Humans To Receive State Historic Marker

        Later this year, the site of the D. T. Watson Home for Crippled Children will receive a historic marker from Pennsylvania’s Historical and Museum Commission the Allegheny County facility was the first site where the polio vaccine was tested on humans.

        In the early 1950s, Dr. Jonas Salk and his team at the University of Pittsburgh were working to develop a vaccine using dead strains of the virus.

        Polio was a terrifying plague that came every summer and mostly affected young children. Infection could result in death or paralysis, or perhaps a lifetime imprisoned in an iron lung.

        For preliminary testing, Salk choose the Watson Home, which was located northwest of Pittsburgh in Leet Township. The children there already suffered from polio, which meant Salk and his team could test the vaccine without fear of infecting new people.

        Once administered, the kids showed increased antibodies, meaning the vaccine worked.

        Salk next tested his vaccine on a second group, residents of the Polk State School in Venango County, whom were the first healthy human participants inoculated with the vaccine.

        “For these children to be sort of the pioneers for this, the eradication of this disease really is heroic,” said Anne Madarasz, chief historian at the Heinz History Center.

        Later this year, a plaque will be posted near the Watson Home, now a rehabilitation center, to mark the children’s contribution to medical science.

        The Watson Home has rebranded itself as couple times since Salk's trials. It is now known as the Watson Institute, continuing to serve special needs children, including those with autism, brain injuries and behavior disorders.

        *This post has been updated. An earlier version misstated the Watson Home was torn down. A different building on the property has been demolished.

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