50 years ago: polio epidemics, immunisation, and politics

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 06 January 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:b5297
  1. Domokos Boda
  1. dboda{at}

    Efforts to develop a polio vaccine started in the United States in the early 1950s, with trials of the Salk vaccine taking place in 1954.1 In Hungary, the Salk vaccine was used after the 1957 epidemic. After a more severe epidemic in 1959, however, the need for a more effective prophylaxis became apparent.2 News emerged that AB Sabin, a US immunologist had developed an attenuated live virus vaccine given orally.

    Learning that Mikhail Chumakov had given the “Sabin drops” to ten million children in the former Soviet Union caused a sensation. Chumakov, head of the Polio Research Institute in Moscow, had visited the United States and offered to cooperate with Sabin. …

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