One year ago today, a global pandemic was declared due to COVID 19. Having lived during the time of the polio virus, I became interested in comparing these two viruses and have written a number of blogs on the subject which are archived on my website.
As well as many similarities, there are also some striking differences. One of these differences being the time it took to produce a vaccine then as compared to today. There was no vaccine available within a year’s time for polio, as we have for COVID 19 today. In fact, it took many years before a vaccine was available, never mind three to help immunize all those desperately wanting their children to be protected.
Of course there were different attempts, none of which worked. In fact some even caused polio. It was a race like today to develop a safe vaccine that worked. The two men in the race were Dr. Jonas Salk and Dr. Sabin (A Russian scientist living in the United States). Dr. Salk’s vaccine was the first to be developed.
On April 12,1955, the long wait was finally over. It was a day of celebration when the Salk vaccine was declared safe and effective. And Dr. Jonas Salk became a hero. Unfortunately, 13 days later, what came to be known as the Cutter Incident happened.
Up to this point, Dr. Salk and trusted assistants tested every batch of vaccine, but with so many wanting to be vaccinated immediately, this was no longer possible. As a result, other laboratories were hired to help. Unfortunately, the American vaccine manufacturers rushed it to the public without enough government control and two batches were improperly manufactured by Cutter Laboratories, leaving some live virus in the vaccine. Some got polio as a result. Some even died. Immediately, all vaccinating was stopped. Dr. Salk was devastated, although it wasn’t his fault. The procedure for making the vaccine simply had not be carefully followed. His vaccine had been tested more carefully than any other drug at the time, and none of the 400,000 children vaccinated during the field trial had become sick. After this terrible incident, the United States Health Services introduced stricter rules, and there were no more problems.
Today in the news there was some mention of concern of blood clots being caused by the latest COVID 19 vaccine, AstraZeneca out of Oxford University. So some countries have stopped using it until it is further tested. Although everyone has been waiting on a safe, effective vaccine for COVID 19, the number of vaccines developed recently in a short time has been quite amazing. Of course, modern technology has been a major factor. Still, it is critical that we use great care in making sure each vaccine is not only effective, but it is also critically important that each one is tested and also proven safe.
Everyone is hoping this day will be the beginning of the end of this pandemic. We are all deeply saddened by the many lost lives, not to mention the devastation to our economy. But we must hang in there, and do our part by continuing to follow the rules laid out to help protect us and see us through this hopefully final stage.
We owe so much to our front line workers for what they have given up for us. Next time you meet such a person, why not take a minute to show your appreciation. They have helped us through this far, and have sometimes put their own lives as well as those of their families on the line. I call that being a hero/heroine!