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April 12, 1955: Newspaper photographers in Ann Arbor Mich., surround Dr. Jonas E. Salk as he thumbs through the report of the polio vaccine's success. At left is Dr. Thomas Francis Jr., who gave the report. This photo was published on Page One of the April 13, 1955, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Associated Press

April 13, 1955: L. N. Stoner, left, district manager of Parke, Davis & Co. and Douglas Wood, office manager, examine a vial from a 300-pound shipment of polio vaccine which arrived by air. Parke, Davis & Co. of Detroit was one of the first six firms licensed to produce the Salk polio vaccine.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bruce Cox / Los Angeles Times

April 18, 1955: The first patient of Dr. Charles A. Holley and nurse Ruth Sem gets her polio vaccine at St. Vibiana School. Others wait their turn. Mass polio inoculations of children started in both parochial and public schools. This photo was published in the April 19, 1955, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jack Carrick / Los Angeles Times

Oct. 18, 1955: Linda Wahl, 7, receives her second and final polio immunization shot from Dr. Dorothy Vollmier at the Commonwealth Avenue School. This photo was published in the Oct. 19, 1955, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ray Graham / Los Angeles Times

Feb. 25, 1957: Manuel Reyes, 7, peeks apprehensively just before getting his polio shot at Castelar Street School as two little girls await their turn.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Garry Watson / Los Angeles Times

Feb. 25, 1957: Timothy Poldrugo, 7, of Castelar Street School, manages a brave smile as Dr. Louise Light prepares polio shot. This photo was published in the Feb. 26, 1957, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Garry Watson / Los Angeles Times

Sept. 15, 1960: Sheila Robinson receives her polio shot from Dr. John W. Ferrin. This photo was published in the Sept. 16, 1960, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Gary Smith / Los Angeles Times

Aug. 31, 1960: Scores of people line up for free polio shots inside a mobile unit parked at 7th Street and Broadway. This vehicle was the first of 50 mobile units planned to distribute the polio vaccine around Los Angeles County. This photo was published in the Sept. 1, 1960, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Nelson Tiffany / Los Angeles Times

October 1962: Barbara Zuanich with a supply of sugar cubes to be used in oral polio vaccine. Some 13 million cubes of sugar would be distributed to some 600 clinics in Los Angeles County. This photo was published in the Oct. 7, 1962, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

Oct. 19, 1962: Workers in Van Nuys assemble kits with sugar cubes and paper cups for use by 600 clinics taking part in Sabin Sunday oral polio vaccination program in Los Angeles County. This photo was published in the Oct. 20, 1962, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John Malmin / Los Angeles Times

Aug. 24, 1962: A long line forms outside Security First National Bank in Reseda 30 minutes before doors open for first Sabin oral polio clinic in the San Fernando Valley. The clinic was sponsored by the Reseda Junior Chamber of Commerce. This photo was published in the Aug. 27, 1962, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

Feb. 3, 1963: Mrs. Jane Malarkey, left, school nurse at Villa Cabrini Academy, and Mrs. Marjorie White, a medical technician, prepare Sabin polio vaccine before opening clinic at the school. This photo was published in the Feb. 4, 1963, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Steve Fontanini / Los Angeles Times

Sept. 9, 1962: Swallowing Sabin oral vaccine are members of the McRiley family, from left, Linda, 10, Evelyn, 6, Dexter, 5, and Orvile, 9. Volunteers in foreground at clinic in Pasadena are Mildred Monroe, left, and Evelyn Bible. This photo was published in the Sept. 10, 1962, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Monteverde / Los Angeles Times

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has a page devoted to polio. From that CDC web page:

Polio was one of the most dreaded childhood diseases of the 20th century in the United States. Periodic epidemics occurred since the late 19th century and they increase in size and frequency in the late 1940s and early 1950s. An average of over 35,000 cases were reported during this time. With the introduction of Salk inactivated polio virus vaccine (IPV) in 1955, the number of cases rapidly declined to under 2,500 cases in 1957. By 1965, only 61 cases of paralytic polio were reported.

After extensive testing in 1954, Dr. Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine was licensed for human use on April 12, 1955. The announcement by Dr. Thomas Francis Jr., in Ann Arbor, Mich., was front page news all over the country.

The April 13, 1955, Los Angeles Times banner headline announced NEW POLIO SERUM READY FOR 200,000 L.A. PUPILS. The main story, by Associated Press reported:

ANN ARBOR, Mich., April 12 (AP)–A potent new 1955-model Salk polio vaccine began rolling tonight to doctors’ offices to end polio’s long-reign of terror.

The vaccine was officially licensed for public use by the National Institutes of Health only hours after it had been found safe, effective and powerful in preventing paralytic polio.

The vaccine in max tests last year proved its ability to prevent up to 90% of cases of paralytic polio.

But since then it has been improved, and this new 1955 model vaccine is the one which the public will begin to get very soon, perhaps within a few days time.

This vaccine is far better than the vaccine tested last year and it can theoretically prevent paralytic polio 100% declared Dr. Jonas Salk, brilliant young Pittsburgh scientist who developed it.

Children would get only two shots – spaced two to four weeks apart – if Dr. Salk’s recommendations are followed. …

The third (booster) shot should not be given until at least seven months have elapsed, but certainly before the onset of the 1956 polio season, he said. …

In 1962, an oral vaccine developed by Albert Sabin was approved for use, accelerating the number of people vaccinated. This photo gallery consists of Los Angeles Times Archive photos of the massive polio vaccine drives of the 1950s and early 1960s.

KTTV television arranged a live telecast from Ann Arbor and spent most of the morning of April 12, 1955, reporting on the Salk vaccine news.

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1 Comment

  1. March 1, 2015, 1:39 pm

    This was the 1950s, the age of mass vaccinations of school children. No mass reports of autism, no exemptions for “personal belief.” And the nation became safe from polio.

    By: Porfirio Garbonza

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