When a New Polio Vaccine Faced Shortages and Setbacks

The 1955 announcement of a new vaccine was met by jubilation. But doubts and problems soon followed.

On April 12, 1955, every American newspaper and TV set jubilantly announced that Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine was a success. Just three years earlier, during the worst polio outbreak in U.S. history, 57,000 people were infected, 21,000 were paralyzed and 3,145 died, most of them children. Pools and movie theaters were shuttered, and panicked parents kept their kids at home, haunted by black-and-white images of toddlers in leg braces and rows of infants sealed in iron lungs.

by Dave Roos

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