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Medical News and Perspectives
April 6, 2005

Happy 50th Birthday, Salk Vaccine

JAMA. 2005;293(13):1581-1583. doi:10.1001/jama.293.13.1581

Today, for most people, the ravages of poliomyelitis are a distant memory conjured up by black-and-white photographs of children with leg braces or people encased in iron lungs.

But 50 years ago, the threat of polio was very real. The disease crippled sons and daughters and led worried parents to keep their children out of swimming pools for fear they would catch the virus. When scientists announced on April 12, 1955, that they had produced a vaccine that was “safe, effective, and potent,” the accomplishment was heralded as one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century.

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