Jonas Salk invented and started testing the polio vaccine in 1952. At the time, polio was one of the world’s most feared diseases. That year a polio epidemic had infected 58 000 people in the US alone, mostly children.
During the first stage of testing on human volunteers, Salk tested the vaccine on himself, his wife and his children.
The Salk vaccine was declared safe and effective in 1955 and put into circulation. By 1962 polio cases had been reduced by 98 percent in the US and similar results were reported by other countries using the vaccine.
In 1961 an oral vaccine developed by Albert Sabin was licensed in many countries and used in mass vaccination campaigns. Oral vaccines are preferred for use today in developing countries and remote communities since they don’t need to be administered by medical professionals.
Both Salk and Sabin did not patent their vaccines.
When the WHO and Rotary International started a campaign in 1988 to eradicate the disease globally, polio was endemic in 125 countries. Global vaccination efforts have reduced that number to 3 countries in 2017. However as long as polio exists, non-immunised people are vulnerable. Vaccinations are the only way to fight polio.
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