BackInTime                                               Marco Polio: 20th century plague conquered by vaccine

Maria Glotfelter
Staff Writer

Medical technology and vaccination advancements have saved countless lives in this modern era. It is hard to imagine a world without vaccinations for chicken pox or the common flu. However, such a time certainly existed, where these preventable diseases once plagued the world. Dr. Jonas Salk was credited with inventing the polio vaccine, and it was on this day in 1955 that the University of Michigan Polio Vaccine Evaluation center declared the vaccine “safe, effective, and potent.” At least the name “polio” is familiar, but what exactly is the disease?

Dr. Jonas Salk is credited with inventing the polio vaccine. Thousands of lives were saved, for which this shopkeeper is expressing gratitude. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

According to the CDC, some common symptoms of polio are sore throat, fever, tiredness, nausea, headache, and stomach pain. Not too bad so far, right? Stated by the CDC, Polio symptoms also include the following: “Paresthesia (feeling of pins and needles in the legs), meningitis (infection of the covering of the spinal cord and/or brain), paralysis (can’t move parts of the body) or weakness in the arms, legs, or both.” We should be thankful we have access to a vaccine, especially considering polio can be spread from human-to-human contact. According to the CDC, 99/100 of children who are at risk and get vaccinated avoid contracting the disease. Until the polio vaccine was created and implemented, thousands were plagued during the 20th century, particularly infants and children. According to, there were 58,000 new cases in 1952 and at least 3,000 dead in America. The man behind the polio vaccination is a story that deserves attention.
Dr. Jonas Salk is credited with inventing the polio vaccine. He was born in New York to Russian-Jewish immigrants Daniel and Dora Salk according to Salk was a first generation college student, and he attended New York University. After graduating from the School of Medicine in 1939, he went to work at Mount Sinai Hospital as a scientist physician.

Salk first conducted his research on polio while he was a medical student at New York University. According to, Salk started doing research in the 1930s and was ready to present the results in 1953. Salk is famous for first testing the polio vaccine on himself (and also his family members). It wasn’t until 1954 that clinical trials were run on school-age children. In 1955, the vaccine was finally announced safe. The polio vaccination has helped save many lives thanks to Dr. Salk’s efforts.