Brewton got polio vaccines quickly
You might have heard NPR's April 12 report marking the 50th anniversary of the announcement that Dr. Jonas Salk's polio vaccine worked.
The vaccine announcement came just three years after the United State's worst polio epidemic on record - some 57,628 cases in 1952.
Although Dr. Salk began testing his vaccine in 1952, it wasn't until April 12, 1955, that the results were announced and the vaccine was declared "safe, effective and potent."
It is somewhat amazing that, within four days of that announcement, vaccines were delivered to Brewton, Ala. From The Brewton Standard, Thursday, April 21, 2005:
The first polio shots for four counties were flown to Brewton Saturday afternoon by an Air Force plane to start the Salk anti-polio vaccination campaign in schools of the county. Receiving the polio vaccine from Air Force personnel were Garland Butler, Atmore, National Infantile Paralysis Foundation official (and an elementary school principal), and Mrs. Sallye Nettles, county health nurse. Shipments for this county, Conecuh, Monroe and Clarke were dropped here, where Highway Patrolmen Johnny Baldwin and Donald Dodd were on hand to make immediate transfer by car to the other counties. School children in the first and second grades of school get the shots free. There are two shots to the series, and parents must give written consent for a child to receive the polio preventive shot.
Polio is an infectious disease caused by the polio virus. The disease can strike at any age, but typically affects children under three. Most children and adults infected with the polio virus suffer only symptoms of a fever, others are paralyzed and some die from the disease.
An editorial in the same edition of The Standard expressed gratitude to Salk, praised President Eisenhower for dictating that the vaccine would be shared with the world - both allies and enemies, and called the discovery "the greatest medical discovery since Jenner paved the way for eliminating smallpox."
Rotary International became involved with polio eradication in 1979 when it made a five-year commitment to provide and help deliver the vaccine to six million children in the Phillippines. In the next four years, similar five-year commitments were approved for Haiti, Bolivia, Morocco, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia.
In the early 1980s, Rotary began planning for the most ambitious program in its history - to immunize all of world's children against polio.
Rotary's pledge of $120 million to fund its PolioPlus program was announced in October 1985 at the 40th anniversary of the United Nations. Within three years, Rotarians had more than doubled their fundraising goal, donating $247 million. By the time the world is certified polio-free, Rotary's contributions to the global polio eradication effort will exceed $600 million.
Most of the world is now free of this disease. That makes it difficult to imagine that urgency that sent the vaccine via a special Air Force plane to our community.
Michele Gerlach can be reached at email@example.com or 25.867.4876.