A polio disaster helped shape vaccine safety. Here’s why that matters for the coronavirus

A polio disaster helped shape vaccine safety. Here’s why that matters for the coronavirus

Dr. Peter Salk still remembers the day his father learned the American manufacturers of the revolutionary polio vaccine he developed had messed up a batch — with deadly consequences.

“This was probably one of the worst moments of his life, when this happened,” said Salk.

“He had full confidence in the safety of the vaccine — if manufactured correctly. And this just was a devastating experience.”

6:28 How a former prime minister’s family played a crucial role in the polio vaccine.
How a former prime minister’s family played a crucial role in the polio vaccine.

Salk’s father was Dr. Jonas Salk, the American virologist whose development of a crucial polio vaccine in 1955 is widely credited with finally reining in the devastating spread of polio.

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While the vaccine itself was safe, failure by the infamous (and defunct) Cutter Laboratories south of the border to manufacture it properly led to thousands of American children who got the vaccine being infected instead, with 200 left paralyzed and 10 dying as a result.

The incident is sometimes cited by anti-vaxxers as an example of vaccination gone wrong, and the rapid spread of vaccine misinformation from many of those same camps amid the coronavirus pandemic has been cited by public health officials as a key challenge.

Multiple vaccine manufacturers are now sharing promising early results from their clinical trials, with nine vaccines around the world currently in Phase 3 trials and three others in Phase 2.…

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