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Table of Contents
Jonas Salk, in full Jonas Edward Salk, was an American physician and medical researcher who developed the first safe and effective vaccine for polio.
See the fact file below for more information on Jonas Salk or alternatively, you can download our 25-page Jonas Salk worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
Early Life and Education
- Jonas Salk grew up in a poor household in 1914, where his father worked in the garment district in New York City.
- This situation, however, did not deter him from studying. After graduating from high school, Salk earned a bachelor’s degree in science at the City College of New York and went on to earn his M.D. from New York University in 1939.
- It was at this time he began to conduct research on viruses, interned at Mount Sinai Hospital for two years, and even worked with Dr. Thomas Francis, Jr., who was conducting killed-virus immunology studies.
- In 1942, Salk joined Francis at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. They became part of a group working to develop an immunization against influenza.
- Five years later, he became Associate Professor of Bacteriology and was promoted to Head of the Virus Research Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
- During that time, he began conducting research on polio, also known as infantile paralysis.
- Polio is an acute viral infectious disease of the nervous system that begins with general symptoms such as fever and headache and is sometimes followed by a more serious and permanent paralysis of muscles in one or more limbs, the throat, or the chest.
Development of the Polio Vaccine
- By 1951, Salk had determined that there were three separate strains of polio viruses and was able to develop a “killed virus” vaccine for the disease.
- He conducted the first human trials in 1952 on former polio patients, on himself, and on his family. It resulted in the children’s increase of antibody levels and no subjects contracted polio from the vaccine.
- By the following year, Salk was ready to announce his findings. His success was then published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
- Salk’s results earned support from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis and its president Basil O’Connor.
- With the support of Dr. Francis, the national testing expanded over the next two years, making it one of the largest clinical trials in medical history.
- 1.3 million American children were vaccinated by 1954, prompting its nationwide inoculation campaign. On April 12, 1955, the vaccine was released for use in the United States.
- An incident delayed production of the vaccine when the Cutter Laboratories of Berkeley, California manufactured defective vaccines resulting in 200 paralyzed children and 10 dead.
Results of the Polio Vaccine
- Despite an initial surge of fear of the vaccine’s adverse effects, the incidence of polio in the United States decreased from 18 cases per 100,000 people to less than two per 100,000.
- Furthermore, according to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, there were more than 57,000 cases in the United States in 1952. But a decade later, that number fell to less than a thousand after 400 million doses of safe polio vaccinations had been administered.
- In the 1960s, the second type of anti-polio medication was introduced. It is known as oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV), or Sabin vaccine, named after American physician and microbiologist Albert Sabin.
- OPV contains live attenuated virus and is given orally. The Salk vaccine was later on replaced by OPV because it was less expensive and easier to use.
- OPV is now the WHO-recommended vaccine for the global eradication of polio. Each child is required with two drops per dose to be immunized against polio.
Jonas Salk in Later Years
- Following his teaching career, he became Fellow and Director (1963 – 1975) of the Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California, later called the Salk Center for Biological Studies.
- The facility focused and furthered its research on such diseases as multiple sclerosis and cancer. Salk served as the center’s director. He also studied AIDS and HIV later in his career.
- He also wrote several books on philosophical topics including Man Unfolding (1972) and The Survival of the Wisest (1973).
- Jonas Salk died of heart failure on June 23, 1995, at his home in California.
- Following the Polio vaccine’s success, countries began polio immunization campaigns using his vaccine, including Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, West Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Belgium.
- Salk became a national hero. President Dwight D. Eisenhower awarded him a special citation at a ceremony held in the Rose Garden at the White House.
- He also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977.
- In 1955, when Salk declared the vaccine as “safe, effective, and potent,” he was asked who owned the patent. “Well, the people, I would say,” said Salk, attributing the funding from charitable donations raised by the March of Dimes.
- Outside of the “Cutter Incident” in 1955, not a single case of polio attributed to the Salk vaccine was contracted again in the United States.
Jonas Salk Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle that includes everything you need to know about Jonas Salk across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use worksheets that are perfect for teaching about Jonas Salk who was an American physician and medical researcher who developed the first safe and effective vaccine for polio.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Jonas Salk Facts
- The Genius
- The Truth Behind the Myth
- The President with Polio
- World Polio Day
- Remembering Jonas Salk
- Health Check!
- Facing Viruses
- Current Events
- A Hero
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Link will appear as Jonas Salk Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, November 10, 2021
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