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1955: Dr Salk promotes polio vaccine in UK

Dr Jonas Salk, the world-famous American virologist currently on a trip to the UK, has witnessed a ceremonial polio vaccination in London.

Margaret Jenkins, aged 21, of Bromley in Kent became the 500,000th person in London to receive the polio vaccine in the first of two injections at the special lunchtime clinic at Guildhall in the City.

Miss Jenkins, a shorthand typist, said she decided to have the vaccination after she had seen two of her friends suffer from the crippling disease, poliomyelitis.

She is due to have her second injection tomorrow at City Hall, once again overseen by Dr Salk, who first developed the killed-virus vaccine against polio that came into use last year.

Huge demand

He is in the UK for a congress of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health.

Polio is a highly infectious virus which spreads from the intestines, attacks the brain and spinal cord and can cause paralysis, muscle wastage and death.

There has been a sharp rise in the demand for the vaccine following the death from the disease of Birmingham City full back Jeff Hall last month.

Local health departments have been overwhelmed with applicants and have ordered an extra million doses.

On 22 April daily inoculations at Manchester Town Hall were suspended because of a shortage of the vaccine.

In Context
By the 1960s the Salk vaccine - first used to prevent polio in 1954 - was replaced by the Sabin vaccine, administered orally.

The Sabin vaccine, named after the Polish-born American microbiologist Albert Bruce Sabin, was a weakened live vaccine that provided greater immunity and for longer.

Since widespread vaccination began in 1955, the crippling virus has been wiped out everywhere except for a few regions of Asia and Africa. There have been no cases in the western world since 1991.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) plans to eradicate polio by 2005.

Dr Jonas Salk founded the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and then devoted his attentions to world peace, speaking at conferences around the world. He died in 1995 aged 80.


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