Oct. 6, 1956: Sabin Polio Vaccine Ready to Test
Updated 6:30 p.m., in next-to-last paragraph.
1956: Dr. Albert Sabin announces that his live-virus oral polio vaccine is ready for mass testing. It will soon supplant the Salk vaccine.
Poliomyelitis is an infectious disease caused by viruses. Its effects range from complete recovery to death. Intermediate possibilities are mild after-effects, moderate to severe paralysis of a limb or limbs, or paralyzed chest muscles, necessitating the confining but lifesaving use of an iron lung.
Polio epidemics periodically ravaged American cities in the first half of the 20th century. Children were especially vulnerable, but the disease also struck adults, most notably former Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1921.
Roosevelt was elected president in 1932, and he founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (as the disease was then often called) in 1938. The foundation conducted a huge annual fundraising campaign called the March of Dimes.
The polio epidemics of the early 1950s terrified American parents and their children. Between 1950 and 1952, the number of severe or fatal U.S. cases doubled to 55,000.