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Letter: Sabin vaccine, not Salk, removed polio’s terror

First Published Aug 13 2014 04:12PM      Last Updated Aug 13 2014 04:12 pm

I’ve always admired George Will for his font of knowledge. But I was dismayed to read this in his column ("Maybe it is not a benevolently ordered universe," August 12):

"The 1950s success of the Salk vaccine in removing the terror of polio had encouraged the belief that pharmacology could slay all infectious diseases." In fact, the oral vaccine developed in the late 1950s by Albert B. Sabin of the University of Cincinnati has been most successful in preventing the spread of polio worldwide, not the Salk vaccine. The Sabin vaccine uses an attenuated virus to both protect against paralysis and prevent transmission through fecal matter.

Dr. Sabin was one of my mentors while I was a resident in pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Cincinnati (1955-58) at the same time he was working on the vaccine. Although it wasn’t commercially available yet, he was kind enough to give me five doses to administer to my children when he learned I was leaving Ohio for the University of Utah.

Now Sabin’s oral vaccine is being distributed throughout the world by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other organizations to finally eradicate the terror of polio.

John F. Wilson, M.D.






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