Short Term Impact

Jonas Salk giving killed virus vaccine
The immediate impact of Salk’s vaccine was a decline in polio cases.  In 1951, 13,000 - 20,000 polio cases were reported yearly.  After Salk’s vaccine the number rapidly declined.  A massive program of inoculations began nationwide.  In the following years, the incidence of polio in the US fell from18 to fewer than 2 cases per 100,000.  Vaccinations for polio became part of every child’s health care in the United States.

The other impact of the Salk vaccine was a decrease in fear.   Elva Suderman, who contracted polio as a child, told us in an interview, “The fear of polio epidemics was finally gone. Thousands of people had been spared the crippling effects of polio.” 

People saw the Salk vaccine as a triumph of science and technology over a long feared disease.  Expectations for children in the United States was one of health because the nation’s scientists and doctors would make it possible.

Report to President Eisenhower
Number of Cases of Poliomyelitis in Those Receiving the Vaccine

(Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library)