Publication date: Jun 02, 2020
When the US polio epidemic was at its highest, the country reported more than 21,000 cases of paralysis, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more than 3,000 lives were lost.
Whereas today children – though in rare cases vulnerable to a little-known and frightening inflammatory disease — seem to be mainly transmitters of coronavirus, in 1952 they were the primary victims of polio.
The parallels with the coronavirus are obvious, and not only in the societal impact of an infectious disease before a vaccine was discovered.
Thanks to the Salk vaccine and Albert Bruce Sabin’s oral polio vaccine, and the work of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, of which Rotary International was a founding partner, more than 18 million people have been saved from lifelong paralysis, and 1. 5 million deaths have been prevented, according to the CDC and WHO.
Backed by the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC, this system upholds, in the words of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the safety and “scientific integrity” of any new vaccine.
Even with the accelerated timelines attempted in the development of a coronavirus vaccine, safety is still prioritized by what doctors describe as many steps being executed in parallel compared to the traditional linear, years-long model of vaccine development.
Yet, in the face of extensive regulatory measures and an abundance of evidence proving the safety and efficacy of vaccines, even before coronavirus struck, vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles and flu viruses, were already resurging in the US.
Perhaps vaccine debates continue, in part, due to the fact that many young parents simply don’t know anyone who has suffered the ravaging effects of a vaccine-preventable disease such as polio.
But the costs are too great to allow for irrational fear of vaccines to outweigh the real consequences of catching a disease such as Covid-19, which is claiming lives, and causing unprecedented changes in society.
We hope that when we have a safe and proven vaccine against coronavirus, this pernicious thinking will be resisted as vaccination protects us all against disease.