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Lessons from how the polio vaccine went from the lab to the public that Americans can learn from today

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16.09.2020

In 1955, after a field trial involving 1.8 million Americans, the world’s first successful polio vaccine was declared “safe, effective, and potent.”

It was arguably the most significant biomedical advance of the past century. Despite the polio vaccine’s long-term success, manufacturers, government leaders and the nonprofit that funded the vaccine’s development made several missteps.

Having produced a documentary about the polio vaccine’s field trials, we believe the lessons learned during that chapter in medical history are worth considering as the race to develop COVID-19 vaccines proceeds.

Today, many competing efforts are underway to create a coronavirus vaccine, each employing different methods to generate the production of universally needed antibodies. Likewise, in the 1950s there were different approaches to making a polio vaccine.

The prevailing medical orthodoxy, led by Dr. Albert Sabin, held that only a live-virus vaccine, which involved using a weakened form of the polio virus to stimulate antibodies, could work. That theory stemmed from work by the physician Edward Jenner, who in the 1700s determined that milkmaids exposed to the cowpox virus-laden pus of cowpox-infected cattle did not catch smallpox. Smallpox was the deadly pandemic of the era, and this discovery led to a vaccine that brought about the disease’s eradication.

Jonas Salk, a doctor and scientist based at the University of Pittsburgh, on the other hand, believed a killed virus, which would completely lose its infectious qualities, could still trick the body into creating protective antibodies against the polio virus.

A nonprofit organization, the National Infantile Paralysis........

© The Conversation


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