The Day Elvis Helped Fight Polio


Never underestimate the driving force of celebrities to advance a cause. Actress Jenny McCarthy, who has no medical or science degree, has claimed over the past 10 years that there is a strong link between vaccines and autism. This claim has been repeatedly denied, yet so many people listen to McCarthy's opinion because of her star power, not her medical background. Years before McCarthy was born, however, researchers harnessed the tremendous star power of the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, to promote vaccines, especially for teens and young adults. And it worked. In this way, on this day in 1956, Raja helped fight polio.

Polio, a widespread health crisis

By the 1950s, polio was the biggest threat to American children. The virus infected more than 60,000 children annually, and about 3,000 of them died from the virus, while thousands more were left paralyzed. The paralysis went so deep that it affected the patients' lungs, forcing them into artificial breathing machines, called iron lungs, which were installed in hospitals across the country. Although it primarily affects children, poliovirus did not discriminate, nor did it have lifelong health complications. Everyone was overconfident, even Franklin D. Roosevelt, who served as president from 1933 to 1945.

Polio Vaccine

Roosevelt and then Truman pushed for research into an effective vaccine against polio, led by a University of Pittsburgh physician and researcher named Jonas Salk. After much trial and error, Salk developed what he claimed was a vaccine that would stop polio. Salk was confident in his work, but to test it, he vaccinated more than two million children with his vaccine. It worked. The number of new polio cases dropped, and Salk was lauded as a hero.

Vaccination Of The Population

Widespread vaccination against polio began in 1955, but at first, the majority of those who received the vaccine were children. Teenagers and adults largely dropped out believing they were not a threat. Vaccines are most effective when there is herd immunity, which means that the majority of the population is vaccinated. In such a situation, the virus cannot be caught. Salk's vaccine was working, but since so many teens and young adults were not vaccinated, polio still remained a threat.

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.