Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Observations about the Salk Polio vaccine - National Public Radio

The Guardian    In 1954, over 300,000 doctors, nurses, schoolteachers and other volunteers across the United States, Canada and Finland took part in one of the most complex and monumental medical trials in history. The plan was to test the effectiveness of a newly-developed vaccine for a disease that was devastating the lives of children across the US: polio.

It was a mammoth task – a double-blind experiment, in which 650,000 schoolchildren were given the vaccine, 750,000 were given a placebo, and over 400,000 children acted as a control group and were given neither. For taking part, each participant was given a sweet and a certificate proclaiming their role as a ‘Polio Pioneer’. The results, announced in 1955, were just as monumental: the vaccine was safe and effective. As a direct result of the development of the vaccine, polio was completely eradicated in the US by 1979. [...]

One other aspect of Salk’s story still plays a vital role in the development and use of vaccines today: public support. In many ways, the 1954 field tests of the polio vaccine are a major success story in public health and scientific engagement – according to some sources, a Gallup poll that year showed that more Americans knew about the trials than could give the full name of then president, Dwight Eisenhower. In short, it appeared that there was unprecedented support for the vaccine. 

It is therefore a sad and strange irony that there now appears to be a growing backlash against vaccines in the US and UK – particularly the MMR vaccine. Since Andrew Wakefield published a fraudulent paper in 1998 purporting to show a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, incidences of measles and mumps have risen greatly. Despite this, and despite studies showing clear costs to society when vaccine rates drop, antivaccinationists still insist on ignoring the evidence when it comes to immunising children. It therefore seems like the celebration of Salk’s 100th birthday is an apt time to remember how hugely important vaccination is – not just on an individual level, but for public health as a whole.


  1. Why does a wise leader like R. Shmuel Kaminetski insist that the Salk vaccine is a fraud. Does he consider himself as a medical expert? Doesn't he realize the bizui chachomim this causes?

  2. RSK was attacking all vaccines, saying it is a hoax. RSK is not a scientist or doctor. He presumably is getting his ideas from either some obscure midrash or from hearsay amongst his askanim.
    Rambam wrote in his Moreh Nevuchim that listening to quack doctors, i.e. unqualified people who talk hocus pocus is assur.

  3. as a staunch anti-vaccinator my self i present to u some links to have a look at. there's always another side to the story.


    haven't had one since i was a child and will never have one again nor to any future children of mine.

    vaccines r wack i want my motherloving money back.

  4. @snuggly - you believe that nonsense? The same logic can be used to explain the impact of witches and witchcraft - or communism etc etc. The article provides no evidence of causation.

    Why don't you write a guest post defending your position that vaccines do nothing positive but are only negative?

  5. as much as i appreciate the invitation to write a guest post i don't care to expand on the issue much further as issues like this tend to get me very heated and emotional.

    there r lots of great books and videos out there already done by people who r far more informed and experts in this field to defend my position and they r available to anyone.

    so since the argument has already been made for me by people who spend full time researching and exposing the fraud and i only learn from them i will just pass the links on to u (and others) to watch or read if u care to cause thats where i learned it from (as well as my doctor who is also anti-vaccination). <--watch trailer here <--then watch the whole thing.

    i doubt u would (but maybe somebody else might who reads this). thats enough for me i feel i'v done my part.

  6. I watched the whole thing. Hour and a half. I need to get a life. That being said, my reaction in one word: "Complicated." Like everything else in life. And death. If I may wax philosophical: "We've got to do the best we can with what we've got." More money could lead to more research, but still won't necessarily give definitive answers. Just take a look at all the experts interviewed and mentioned in the credits at the end, and yet we're far from a consensus. But nothing in the movie would seem to justify an attitude of zero vaccination. Anyone advocating that kind of policy *ahem* appears to me to be foolhardy.

  7. My father told me recently that he was in that initial study of the Salk Vaccine.

    I also know that my grandfather missed a year of school as a boy due to diptheria, I think his brother died from it, (my grandfather lived to age 99)


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