Sixty years ago, in 1955, John Salk invented the injectable vaccine for combating the poliovirus. In the US this was a very important moment. Poliovirus killed or immobilized thousands of children every summer. The worst year ever recorded was 1952 when the virus affected 58.000 American Children. Movie theaters and pools were closed and communities turned into real ghost towns due to the fact that families moved from crowded cities.
Polio is a very contagious viral infection which generates breathing problems, paralysis and even death. Young children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable to get polio. The poliovirus easily spreads in regions with poor sanitation via contaminated food or water. Most people infected with this virus do not display any symptoms, but the diseases can be identified after symptoms such as breathing and swallowing troubles, back and neck stiffness and abnormal reflexes.
The research led by Dr. Jonas Salk was supported by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. The formula for the vaccine was tested on more than 1.8 million children. After the vaccine was declared “safe, effective and potent” by Dr. Thomas Francis of the University of Michigan, only a couple of days passed before the vaccinations started.
However after a few decades Dr. Albert Sabin developed the oral formula of the polio vaccine. Ever since this alternative was introduced the developed countries started to switch over to it. The oral vaccine became so popular that health experts gave up the injectable one.
The oral vaccine became popular because it was more convenient to use. It was easier to transport, it did not need any special equipment and most importantly, it could be easily administered by anyone. In addition it was less expensive and consequently more extensively used in low-income and middle-income countries.
Although the alternative of the oral vaccine may be more advantageous, it uses weakened virus, so there is 1 in 750,000 chance of getting infected. Health experts have reached the conclusion that in rare cases the oral Poliovirus can cause infection. As a result figures show that lately the injectable vaccine was preferred to the oral one. The injectable vaccine was reported to be more efficient and it completely eliminates the poliovirus. Since caregivers believe that the injectable poliovirus offers complete protection against the polio infection, they went back to the old ways.
Image Source: American History
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