Polio formally named Poliomyelitis is an acute viral illness which produces muscular paralysis in almost 1% of the people infected. Polio was an incurable disease that left thousands of adults and children crippled.
History dates Polio to earlier than the 20th century There was evidence of a recurrent of polio recorded back in 1789 by a British physician named Michael Underwood. Around 1840 Jacob von Heine recognized the disease for complications to the spinal cord. Around 1894 in Vermont the United States had its first polio epidemic with one hundred thirty-two cases and eighteen deaths. Around 1907 Dr. Ivar Wickman, a Swedish Doctor, identified different types of Polio infection. In the 1916’s largest Polio epidemic hit the United States. Poliovirus was not truly identified until around the 1930’s. In the 1930’s there were more than two strains of the poliovirus discovered. Around the 1940’s an Australian Nurse Sister Kenny brought a new polio treatment to the United States. To relax the painful contracting muscles and massage Nurse Kenny treated them with a warm compress for rehabilitation. In 1952 Dr. Jonas Salk began the first effective vaccine against polio. Effective vaccines were introduced in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1955 the polio vaccine was introduced. (CDC, “Reported Cases and Deaths from Vaccine Preventable Diseases, United States, 1950-2013,” cdc.gov, Sep. 2014 n.d.)
The Polio Vaccine Assistance Act of 1955 was passed in the United States Congress during the closing days and On August 12th it was signed by President Eisenhower. This allowed the states to receive federal grant to purchase polio vaccines and conduct programs on vaccination. The Polio Assistance Act provides $30 million for grants to assist states in vaccinating children under 20 and expectant mothers. Under the act $25 million is provided for the purchase of vaccine and $5 million for the cost of planning and conducting polio immunization programs or for the purchase of vaccine. The funds were allotted to the states according to the number of individuals in the age group noted above and pregnant women, less the number vaccinated in the program of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, the per capita income of the state, and the cost of the vaccine. Funds under this act will be available until February 15, 1956.
April 12, 1955 Cutter Laboratories announced they were successful in a trial for polio vaccine. Cutter Laboratories were one of many companies licensed by the United States to produce the polio vaccine developed by Salk’s. Once licensed many companies were producing and issuing stocks of vaccines. Despite passing the required safety test Cutter Laboratories vaccine contained live polio virus. It was supposed to be an inactive virus. Due to the Cutter incident and reported cases, the vaccine was withdrawn on April 27th.
In April 1955 more than 200 000 children in five Western and mid-Western USA states received a polio vaccine in which the process of inactivating the live virus proved to be defective. Within days there were reports of paralysis and within a month the first mass vaccination programmed against polio had to be abandoned. Subsequent investigations revealed that the vaccine, manufactured by the California-based family firm of Cutter Laboratories, had caused forty thousand cases of polio, leaving two hundred children with varying degrees of paralysis and killing ten.
Many children that received the vaccine, the mistake produced one hundred twenty thousand doses of polio vaccine that contained live polio virus. Of children who received the vaccine, 40,000 developed abortive poliomyelitis (a form of the disease that does not involve the central nervous system), fifty-six developed paralytic poliomyelitis—and of these, five children died from polio. The exposures led to an epidemic of polio in the families and communities of the affected children, resulting in a further one-hundred thirteen people paralyzed and five deaths.