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About The Jonas Salk Polio Vaccine


Jonas Salk polio vaccine was the first proven vaccine for polio prevention that was developed. This vaccine was brought into existence by  Dr. Jonas Salk in 1952, in a time where polio was a devastating and wide spread disease with thousands dying each year. In this article we will explore this life saving inoculation, via its invention, its properties and other important facts relating to the Jonas Salk polio vaccine


The Jonas Salk polio vaccine creator, Jonas Salk, was born in New York City on October 28, 1914. He was the first of his family to attend college at the City College of New York, and then the New York University School of Medicine, financing his education via working after classes, eventually graduating from university in 1938. Whilst at NYC he come into contact with microbiologist Thomas Francis, Jr, who at the time was developing an influenza vaccine. Jonas Salk aided his fellow scientists in developing the vaccine that was used in the military during World War II.

Jonas Salk then went on to become  the head of the Virus Research Lab at the University of Pittsburgh. This was to become the setting for the revolutionary development of the Jonas Salk Polio Vaccine. Jonas whilst at Pittsburgh developed a close connection with the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, an organisation created by  then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938 to combat polio. He turned his studies/research on developing a cure for polio via a vaccine. Jonas was already quite knowledgeable about vaccines thorough his past studies on the influenza vaccine with his comrade Thomas Francis Jr. He thought that instead of injecting a living virus which was the custom of the day you could inject a dead virus into an individual for protective immunity to be developed. This research entrapped the intention of  Basil O'Connor, president of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, who funded The Jonas Salk polio vaccine research.

This Jonas Salk polio vaccine research involved Jonas killing paralytic poliomyelitis via formaldehyde, and without losing its immune inducing qualities. Thus the vaccine was developed, and the next stage was to test to see if it was effective.



The first round of testing of the Jonas Salk Polio vaccine was performed on first in monkeys and then in patients at the D.T. Watson Home for Crippled Children. Happy with the results Salk decided to inoculate himself, his wife, and three children. All that received the vaccine started to produce antibodies and showed no adverse side effects. 

This lead John salk to publish his amazing discovery in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and after approval from the  Vaccine Advisory Committee was received nationwide testing commenced in 1954. This involved  1.3 million children, ages six to nine. The testing was randomized, and a double-blind test meaning that children were randomly assigned to either the control group or the vaccine group without the test subjects or the health officials knowing who had the polio vaccine and who received the placebo fluid.  This was a lengthy process taking over a year for officials to analyze the results and deem whether the vaccine provided adquate protection against the devasting polio disease.

This results of the Jonas Salk Polio vaccine were officially announced at the University of Michigan in 1955 by Thomas Francis Jr. and colleagues. The results detailed that the vaccine was 80-90% effective against paralytic polio. Thus the U.S. government licensed Salk’s vaccine, and implemented measures so that there was widespread distribution and use of the vaccine.

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John Salk died at age 80 on June 23, 1995 and at the Salk Institute for biological studies lies the following memorial 'Hope lies in dreams, in imagination and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality."

By Athena Rhodes, published at 03/27/2012
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