People fail to take Salk vaccine shots

Editor’s Note: This article was orginally published on Tuesday, April 21, 1959.

The negligence of a great segment of the American people in failing to use the Salk vaccine as protection against paralytic polio was termed, “a national disgrace” by Basil O’connor, president of The National Foundation (originally “for Infantile Paralysis”), in a statement issued on the fourth anniversay of the licensing of the polio preventative.

“Although for four years there has been a vaccine that protects against paralysis from polio, there are still 98 million Americans of all ages who have failed to obtain even a single Salk shot,” Mr. O’Connor reported.

“The fact that four Americans in seven are unprotected by the vaccine, at a time when a surplus is spoiling on the shelves, is an appalling commentary on our intelligence as a people,” the head of the March of Dimes organization declared.

“Still more shocking,” Mr. O’Connor said, “is the fact that the parents of some six million children under five years ofage, the group most vulnerable to polio, have done nothing to protect their helpless young.”

Mr. O’Connor recalled that the Detroit area, scene of a 1958 polio epidemic that struck down 876 persons and killed 23, provided “a horrifying example” of what can happen when large groups of people remain unvaccinated. He noted that last year epidemics also occurred in New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, Montan and Hawaii.

“There is still time to get two shots of Salk vaccine before the polio season is upon us,” Mr. O’Connor urged, adding that two innoculations – or even one – would provide tremendously increased protection for most peole, even though the approved procedure cals for three properly spaced injections.

“Vaccination os susceptible children and adults must start immediately if our nation is to ward off polio disasters next summer,” Mr. O’Connor warned.