Long Term Change with Salk's Vaccine

Salk with his research team
(Smithsonian Institute)
Because of Salk’s vaccine, polio has almost been eliminated in the world, sparing millions paralysis and death.  Polio has disappeared from North American and someday maybe from the whole world.  The numbers showed the impact of the Salk vaccine.  Only 910 cases were reported in 1962 compared to 57,879 cases in 1952, when the largest epidemic struck the US. 

Jonas Salk  became a national hero and his name a household word for innovation. Salk did not patent nor take any profit from the killed-virus vaccine.  "There was great rejoicing, obviously," Salk said in a1991 interview with the Academy of Achievement in Washington, D.C. "Because of the freedom from fear, or the relief that comes from 'Now I know what to do in order to try to prevent the occurrence of this fearsome possibility.'"

Richard Lichtenstein, a polio pioneer, shared in a phone interview with the authors, "An example I can give you in the difference Salk's made is that when I ask a class today, 'How many of you woke up and worried that you might end up in an iron lung?'  Everyone now looks at me like I am crazy. That is an amazing change from when I was a child to now.”  

"It (Salk's vaccine) gave us hope and peace of mind.  It made the world safe again for most children.  No more fear of iron lungs, death, or being 'crippled'", wrote Nancy Leyerzaf, polio pioneer. 

The killed virus vaccine became the model for many modern day vaccines.  Betty Jean Mayer, a polio pioneer, told us the Salk vaccine, "revolutionized the idea of immunizations for children in the US." 

One negative impact of Salk's vaccine today is that people no longer believe that polio is a threat in the United States and have chosen to not inoculate their children citing religious and philosophical reasons.