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Dakota Datebook

Salk Polio Shots, Part 2

Yesterday we heard how the polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk’s team arrived in North Dakota. On this date in 1955, North Dakota held its first polio vaccination clinics. At the World War Memorial Building in Bismarck, 981 children ages 6 to 9 were vaccinated. They streamed into the building from buses and got in line, looking ahead in curiosity. They bared their arms and looked away when it was their turn for the shot. 

It wasn’t easy for everybody. One boy was resisted, and was held by four nurses and his mother. Other parents were reluctant about the vaccine. One mother “thought a long time” before letting her 6-year-old daughter get vaccinated. 

The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, also known as the March of Dimes, provided the vaccine free of charge for first- and second-graders in North Dakota. Under that program in 1955, 59% of those children were vaccinated – more than 17,800 kids. Vaccination rates ranged from 24% in Oliver County to 88% in Renville County. The federal government also provided $134,000 for vaccinating people ages 19 and younger and pregnant women. A shortage of vaccine was a challenge. The vaccinations were the chief priority of public health nurses, whose work also included tuberculosis testing and rehabilitation services for the elderly, chronically ill and people with disabilities.

In summarizing the first year of polio shots, North Dakota’s director of public health wrote: “Never in the history of the state has there been such an extensive effort to wipe out a dreaded disease.” 1955 ended with the second-fewest polio cases in North Dakota over the last ten years. 

Dr. Albert Sabin soon developed an oral polio vaccine, which was taken with sugar. Like Salk’s shot, it generated mass turnouts. As many as 16,000 people were vaccinated in one day in Stutsman County in 1963. Vaccinations eliminated polio in the U.S. by 1979, but it has not yet been eradicated from the world, with cases persisting in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was paralyzed from polio at age 39, helped found the March of Dimes, which raises money for vaccine research and patient care. His image has been on the dime since 1946 – an everyday reminder of the polio story.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

Sources:

The Bismarck Tribune. 1954, May 27. Page 19

The Bismarck Tribune. 1954, August 5. Page 15

The Bismarck Tribune. 1954, November 4. Page 6

The Bismarck Tribune. 1954, December 24. Page 7

The Bismarck Tribune. 1955, March 24. Page 23

The Bismarck Tribune. 1955, April 6. Page 10

The Bismarck Tribune. 1955, April 12. Page 1

The Bismarck Tribune. 1955, April 14. Pages 1, 3

The Bismarck Tribune. 1955, May 25. Page 14

The Bismarck Tribune. 1955, June 3. Page 1

The Bismarck Tribune. 1955, June 4. Page 1

The Bismarck Tribune. 1955, June 6. Page 1

The Bismarck Tribune. 1955, June 7. Pages 1, 3

The Bismarck Tribune. 1955, June 8. Page 1

The Bismarck Tribune. 1955, June 9. Pages 1, 3

The Bismarck Tribune. 1955, June 10. Page 9

The Bismarck Tribune. 1955, June 13. Page 1

The Bismarck Tribune. 1955, December 29. Page 6

The Bismarck Tribune. 1963, March 18. Page 6

North Dakota State Department of Health. (1955). North Dakota health news (Vol. 10, No. 1), March 1955. 

North Dakota State Department of Health. (1955). North Dakota health news (Vol. 10, No. 3), September 1955.

North Dakota State Department of Health. (1956). Thirty-fourth biennial report July 1, 1954 – June 30, 1956. North Dakota State Department of Health: Bismarck, ND

https://www.ndhealth.gov/Disease/Documents/faqs/Polio.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/polio/progress/index.htm

https://www.marchofdimes.org/mission/about-us.aspx

https://www.pcgs.com/news/why-is-roosevelt-on-the-dime

https://www.marchofdimes.org/mission/a-history-of-the-march-of-dimes.aspx

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