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Remembrances > Salk Vaccination Program
Salk Vaccination Program
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27 posts
Jan 16, 2013
1:20 PM
I started school as a first grader in 1953 at St. Mary on Xenia Avenue. About the same time my mother went to work part time as an admitting office clerk at Miami Valley Hospital. After my mother went through her first summer at the hospital she lived in mortal fear that one or more of her six kids was going to get polio and live in an iron lung. She saw way too many kids with polio admitted during the summer at Miami Valley Hospital. Just about that time, the National Foundation (March of Dimes) was beginning its test of the Salk polio vaccine. In the first or second grade, the school gave me a parental permission form to take home to see if parents wanted their child to get the vaccine. Somehow I forgot about the form and had to make a special trip home from school to get another form signed. Mom was not happy that I just about missed a chance to get vaccinated.

I swear to God that the syringes and needles used for the vaccination looked like two feet long to a school kid. A few kids cried, but most of us stepped up and took our medicine bravely from the nurses. It must have taken a really well-organized effort to get the first round of kids vaccinated. No disposable syringes and needles in those days. Lots of sterilizing of reusable equipment. I wonder how many times a needle was sterilized and re-used before somebody resharpened it?

The Salk vaccine required several shots for full immunity. I think the the second round of shots came during the summer after the school vaccine inoculation. Mom took me downtown on the trolley bus to the Municipal Building. It was a mess next to the school program. At school, kids were called group by group from the classrooms to the "clinic." At the Municipal Building the halls and staircases were filled with long lines of kids; it looked like hundreds and hundreds. I remember lots of kids crying and the smell of vomit everywhere. I was glad when I finally got my shot and left.

The Salk vaccine program was successful and polio and the iron lung passed into history. It was the last mass public heath program conducted without federal government assistance. The March of Dimes, greatly enhanced by attachment of the collective memory that FDR was a polio victim, did it alone with the help of local public health agencies. My mom had one less worry during the wonderful summers of my childhood in east Dayton. We kids got to go swimming, playing in the rain, and camping without fear of coming home with polio.

I can't help being a little upset with some modern parents who don't have their children properly vaccinated for childhood diseases. They have no idea how our parents lived with the fear of polio, whooping cough and flu. Maybe they ought to see the old pictures of hospital wards with dozens of kids on their backs inside iron lung machines. Just their heads outside the pressure chambers that kept them alive.
131 posts
Jan 16, 2013
3:48 PM
I also started school in Mrs. Evans' 1st Grade class at Wagner school in 1953 and was invited to take part in the Salk Vaccine program. My father died in 1947 from Polio a few months after I was born. When He got sick, he lasted maybe 4 or 5 months in an Iron Lung until he passed. The was no way my Mom was going to let me miss those shots. I remember one at school and a couple downtown at the Memorial hall (I think). I'm not sure anymore how many shots we got, but I did find my Polio Pioneer ID card in a family album.
When my Mom passed away in 2006, we had planned to disinterr my dad and have them both cremated and reburied together. My Mom never remarried. But, the officials were still afraid of the virus and would not do as we wanted. So we had my Mom's cremains box placed on top of my Dad's casket and buried together with my Dad, that way. All these years and the fear still exists. At least in Cincinatti where they are interred.

Last Edited by on Jan 16, 2013 3:49 PM
38 posts
Jan 17, 2013
3:04 PM
I too remember what a scary time this was. Miami Valley Hospital had a long building (it looked like a temporary building) and when we would drive by, there were always people standing outside by the windows visiting their loved ones who were in iron lungs fighting polio. They weren't allowed to come inside because of the danger polio presented. I have my four children's medical records that I have saved all these years and it shows that they had their polio shots in April and May, of 1959. I see that some of the posts on here mention that they started their shots in '53 and '54 at school. Was this just an experimental program at the time and it took that long for the doctors to have the vaccine in their offices? I was so afraid for my children and I'm sure I would have gotten their innoculations as soon as they become available. My oldest child didn't start school until 1955. Didn't they also come out with a vaccine that you take orally? I just faintly recall my husband and I going to Eastmont Elementary School for this in the early '60's. I don't know why we didn't get the vaccine when the kids got theirs. When I started working at Miami Valley Hospital School of Nursing in 1972, you had to go through an underground tunnel to get to the main hospital. They were getting rid of some of the old iron lungs and they had them setting in the tunnel. I cringed everytime I passed them, remembering the patients that must have lost their battle with polio. I should have been thinking of the lives they also saved. My son-in-law who was born in 1947 had polio during the epidemic as well as his younger brother who ended up severely crippled. He passed away in his '40's with complications the polio had caused him. My son-in-law escaped with only a small limp to this day. A horrible disease and a very scary time. Thank God for the work of Dr. Jonas Salk!

Last Edited by on Jan 17, 2013 3:10 PM
2 posts
Jan 17, 2013
3:44 PM
Iremember getting smallpox vac. in 1954 in springboro, I also thought polio vac, came later.By the way Syxpack, my mother Clemma Adams, allso worked at the nursing school.
133 posts
Jan 17, 2013
4:13 PM
The Salk Vaccine shots started in 53 and the Sabin vaccine started later and was oral given with a cube of sugar and was cherry flavored..
40 posts
Jan 17, 2013
6:26 PM
Thanks PaulH for reminding me that it was called the Sabin vaccine and I have since talked to my oldest son Rick who told me that all my kids went with their dad and me and also took the Sabin vaccine after taking the Salk shots. I'm sure I would have asked if they could have both. Must have been alright.

tuck48 - it's indeed a small world. Clemma was always one of my favorite co-workers. I loved working with her in the Residence. How is your mom? I haven't heard anything of her since the school closed and I was transferred over to Nursing Administration. Your mom used to live close to my daughter who lives near Spaulding Road and Woodbine. Your mom lived behind her on Juniper.
32 posts
Jan 17, 2013
7:05 PM
Syxpack gave me pause to double check my dates and I think that I was off a year or two. What I found out was that the country experienced huge polio outbreaks in the summers of 1952 and 1953. Dr. Salk did a small test of his vaccine in 1953 (one to two thousand) and a much bigger one in 1954 (1.8 million). Mass inoculations began in 1955 so I'm thinking that is the period I remember. I was a third grader. I vaguely remember hearing about the vaccine being experimental and some kids getting salt water and other real vaccine so it may be possible I was part of the big time test, but odds are against it. I haven't been able to determine if any Dayton schools were involved in that 1954 big field study though. This is something I might look into sometime.
41 posts
Jan 17, 2013
8:11 PM
Thanks for the info rdebross. If you ever do more research, I'd be interested to hear what you find.
234 posts
Jan 17, 2013
8:32 PM
My ex-husband always told me he was part of the experimental polio vaccine at school. He grew up in Drexel, born in 1947, so it would have been about 1954. I got mine at Residence Park in 1955, I remember lining up in the gym to get my shot and I still have the card they gave me.
My grandmother was convinced that fresh peaches had something to do with polio, had to wash them and then peel them and throw the peelings away. I think everyone was grasping at straws to prevent getting the disease.
134 posts
Jan 17, 2013
8:31 PM
A quick check on the cause of polio yielded this information.
Poliomyelitis (pron.: /po?lio?ma??la?t?s/), often called polio or infantile paralysis, is an acute, viral, infectious disease spread from person to person, primarily via the fecal-oral route.
Interesting. Anyone have something different? The only thing I can deduce from this, is that we, as a people, weren't very aware of being better about persobal cleanliness.
253 posts
Feb 19, 2013
3:18 PM
> the lighter side of Polio by Dave Berg

Allen, your wit is singular and appreciated. Oot greet!
64 posts
Apr 04, 2013
11:20 PM
so just out of curiosity what was the vaccine I received in the back seat of a car,I just remember the nurse, I guess,broke a glass vile and scratched my arm with it and taped a clear glass maybe plastic cap over it,it seemed to sorta get infected,scab over and left a scar,The back seat of the car was the weird part I think.But I was a Shawen Acre kid so.........
145 posts
Apr 05, 2013
2:21 AM
thomas6. That car back seat action sounds like a Small Pox Vaccination.
69 posts
Apr 09, 2013
7:58 PM
If I remember right I think she did a alcohol wipe first,and I think it was a newer car so.....
35 posts
Jan 17, 2014
11:48 AM
You can tell how old we are by whether we have the big ugly scar on our shoulder from the smallpox "vaccination" or no mark at all from the regular injection. I can still herar the neck of that vial snapping and then imagine feeling the scratching on my arm. When you are a little kid it hurts more than it would now. I too say thank you for nvaccines that kept my kids from getting measles, mumps and chicken pox. Wish I'd never had chicken pox.....I've had two bouts with shingles as a result and that'snot pleasant either.

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