Dr. Jonas Salk is credited with saving millions of lives thanks to his work with the polio vaccine. For over 60 years, this deadly disease had been terrorizing parents around the world. It was highly contagious, afflicted many children, and could cause paralysis and death. Here are some interesting facts about Jonas Salk you may not have known.
1. Fear Was Greater Than Anything
Polio could certainly be deadly. Many children also had the disease and recovered from it completely. More children died from cancer or in accidents at the peak of the polio epidemic in the United States then they did from polio. The surge to find a vaccine came from fear more than it came from fact.
2. FDR Drove the Polio Vaccine Home
As a VP candidate, FDR contracted polio while he was on vacation. The disease left him permanently paralyzed. Just before the outbreak of World War II, he would create the March of Dimes Foundation to help provide funding for the vaccine trials that Salk had developed.
3. The Reason Behind Formaldehyde
One of the criticisms of vaccines is that formaldehyde is used to deactivate the virus so it can no longer reproduce. The fear is that formaldehyde could contribute to autism development today. What Jonas Salk was able to prove was that a live virus was not necessary to create an immunity to the disease.
4. More Than Just Research
Jonas Salk first tested his vaccine on several thousand monkeys. When the results were positive, he then moved to human clinical trials. This included himself, his wife, and his children. It has been said that he sterilized his equipment for the self-injections by boiling it in water on his stove.
5. Never For Profit
When 1955 came around and millions had been vaccinated, Salk declared that the polio vaccine was safe and potent. When interviewed about his success, he was asked who owned the patent on the vaccine. Salk declared there was no patent. Although the March of Dimes researched the subject to see if the vaccine could be patented, they respected Salk’s wishes to keep it in the public domain.
In 2013, there were fewer than 500 total cases of polio reported in the world. This in large part is due to the work of Dr. Jonas Salk, a man who wouldn’t let fear get in the way of scientific progress.