With the race for a vaccine to prevent COVID19, I am reminded of the race for a vaccine during the polio epidemic.
Recently, there has been the news that a vaccine may be ready by Jan 2021, which is quite a difference time line then first predicted. But make no mistake, it takes a great deal of testing after a vaccine is developed to be sure that it is safe and effective.
During the testing of the polio vaccine, the biggest field trial in medical history took place. Only first, second and third graders were involved since children that age group were most likely to get polio. The children involved in the experiment were called Polio Pioneers. Getting volunteers for the field trial was not difficult as most parents wanted their children to be vaccinated. Even though they didn’t know for sure that the vaccine worked or that it was safe, they were willing to take the chance as they were terrified of their children contacting the virus. Some children were given the a placebo while others were given the real vaccine. Families were not told which their children received. It was a long, nervous time waiting for the results. But on April 12, 1955, the vaccine was declared safe and effective. What a joyous day of celebration that was !
Unfortunately, thirteen days later the big mistake changed all that. And it was not the fault of the vaccine, Dr. Salk or his team. None-the-less it was a devastating event!
Read my next post to find out what happened.