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Sabin Oral Vaccine

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Ask anyone old enough to remember the polio years, and they will probably recall waiting in line to take a vaccine on a sugar cube. Dr. Jonas Salk gets a lot of credit for developing a vaccine to defeat polio, but this oral vaccine came out years afterward, developed by his rival, Dr. Albert Sabin.

Polio was a menacing disease that could paralyze and even kill. Young children were most susceptible. Images of children in leg braces, crutches, wheelchairs and iron lungs were horrifying. The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis led the March of Dimes, which collected donations for vaccine research and patient care.

Salk’s vaccine was welcomed with open arms when it rolled out in 1955. By 1958, about 90% of North Dakota children younger than 10 had had two polio shots. The Salk vaccine was administered in a series of three shots; the first two provided 80 to 90 percent immunity.

The poliovirus was beginning to fade. North Dakota had a record 492 polio cases in 1946. By 1961, the number had dropped to four, the lowest since North Dakota’s recordkeeping on polio began in 1924.

1961 was also was significant for another reason: Salk’s shot was about to be replaced as the Sabin vaccine debuted. On this date the following year, the Bismarck Tribune reported that nearly 30,000 people in Burleigh and Morton counties received their first dose of the new vaccine – all in six hours on a Sunday afternoon, called “Sabin Oral Sunday.” The clinics were open to everyone 3 months and older. Hundreds of volunteers ran 13 vaccination clinics at schools and public buildings in Bismarck, Mandan, Flasher, Glen Ullin, Sterling and Wing. Mobile units brought the vaccine to shut-ins, hospital patients and nursing home residents. Organizers asked for 25 cents per dose, but otherwise, the vaccinations were free.

Polio was mostly stomped out in North Dakota by 1965, with at least two cases in the 1970s. In 1975, the Legislature passed a school immunization law for polio and other diseases. Polio has been eradicated in the U.S. since 1979.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

Sources:
The Bismarck Tribune. 1962, August 31. Page 10
The Bismarck Tribune. 1962, September 12. Page 11
The Bismarck Tribune. 1962, September 15. Pages 1, 2
The Bismarck Tribune. 1962, September 17. Page 1
The Bismarck Tribune. 1974, September 10. Pages 1, 2
The Bismarck Tribune. 1977, June 15. Page 2
Oshinsky, D.M. (2005). Polio: An American story. Oxford University Press: New York, NY
North Dakota State Department of Health. (1956). Thirty-fourth biennial report July 1, 1954 – June 30, 1956: Health in North Dakota. Bismarck Tribune: Bismarck, ND
North Dakota State Department of Health. (1958). Thirty-fifth biennial report July 1, 1956 – June 30, 1958: Health in North Dakota. Bismarck Tribune: Bismarck, ND
North Dakota State Department of Health. (1960). Thirty-sixth biennial report July 1, 1958 – June 30, 1960: Health in North Dakota. Bismarck Tribune: Bismarck, ND
North Dakota State Department of Health. (1962). Thirty-seventh biennial report July 1, 1960 – June 30, 1962: Health in North Dakota. Bismarck Tribune: Bismarck, ND
North Dakota State Department of Health. (1964). Thirty-eighth biennial report July 1, 1962 – June 30, 1964: Health in North Dakota. Bismarck Tribune: Bismarck, ND
North Dakota State Department of Health. (1966). Thirty-ninth biennial report July 1, 1964 – June 30, 1966: Health in North Dakota. Bismarck Tribune: Bismarck, ND
North Dakota State Department of Health. (1975). Forty-fourth biennial report July 1, 1973 – June 30, 1975: Health in North Dakota. North Dakota State Department of Health: Bismarck, ND
State Department of Health. (1977). Forty-fifth biennial report July 1, 1975 – June 30, 1977. State Department of Health: Bismarck, ND
State Department of Health. (1979). Forty-sixth report July 1, 1977 – June 30, 1979. North Dakota State Department of Health: Bismarck, ND

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