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Dr. Jonas Salk and the Polio Vaccine

March 24, 2010 by  

On March 26, 1953, Dr. Jonas Salk made a momentous announcement: He had invented a vaccine that would prevent a child from catching one of the most feared contagions at the time, poliomyelitis.

Today, with polio virtually unknown in the West (the last case in the U.S. occurred in 1979) it is difficult to imagine the panic that took place half a century ago when a child was diagnosed with the disease. Playmates were forbidden to visit. A swimming pool he used would be empty in the middle of the summer. Parents would worry for weeks that one of their children might become crippled for life.

I witnessed the awful consequences of the disease because a family friend was infected in childhood. For the rest of her life, Eleanor was forced to don a metal harness every morning. There was a metal girdle around her waist, with steel braces running down each leg, ending in a pair of heavy black shoes.

Wearing this device and using crutches, Ellie could make her way slowly from room to room. Without it, she was totally immobile. But Ellie was determined to have as normal a life as possible. She and her husband Ken adopted two children and did everything families did back then—go on picnics, play in the pool, participate in the PTA. In the 50-some years I knew Ellie Hawthorne, I never heard her complain about her infirmity.

Thinking back on what she endured it seems almost miraculous that, thanks to the pioneering work of Salk, Dr. Albert Sabin and their colleagues, most children today will never see a case of polio, much less be afflicted by it.

Salk refused to patent his discovery or receive any money for it. He insisted that, “like the sun,” the vaccine should be free to everyone.

—Chip Wood

Chip Wood

is the geopolitical editor of He is the founder of Soundview Publications, in Atlanta, where he was also the host of an award-winning radio talk show for many years. He was the publisher of several bestselling books, including Crisis Investing by Doug Casey, None Dare Call It Conspiracy by Gary Allen and Larry Abraham and The War on Gold by Anthony Sutton. Chip is well known on the investment conference circuit where he has served as Master of Ceremonies for FreedomFest, The New Orleans Investment Conference, Sovereign Society, and The Atlanta Investment Conference.

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  • Diane Lorbiecki

    Dear Mr. Wood,

    Please re-think your position on polio vaccination. The book about the polio vaccine, “The Virus and the Vaccine: The True Story of a Cancer-Causing Monkey Virus, Contaminated Polio Vaccine, and the Millions of Americans Exposed,” by Debbie Bookchin & Jim Schumacher exposes the dangers of polio vaccination: — also — here is an excellent article from Dr. Joseph Mercola: — and here is another excellent article by Neil Z. Miller:

    Thank you

  • Leonard

    “Salk refused to patent his discovery or receive any money for it. He insisted that, “like the sun,” the vaccine should be free to everyone.”

    Gee Chip… free vaccine for everyone? Doesn’t that sound a bit like communism or universal healthcare?

    • Jim H.

      Leonard, Since the vaccine was his to sell, keep or donate, it sounds like charity to me. Communism or socialized medicine would be if the government just took it from him.

  • louie tita jr

    Dr. Jonas Salk was indeed a great man. My father followed his life, and career. You see, in 1953, my parents got word I had polio, at 9 months old. Because it was an epidemic, and children were dying, and having their arms or legs atrophied for life, or contained in an iron lung, my dad was relieved when the vaccine came out, so other children would never get polio. My dad was also relieved to find out my left leg was atophied, but dad never babied me. I went on to play all sports, excelling in baseball, and even won the best athelete of my town, at the age of 17! I say that only my left leg was weak, but I was in various facilities, where I saw kids my age alot worse off than I was. LESSON? Someone out there has it worse than me, and I thank GOD, and my parents to allow me to be a kid. Footnote: I am 57 and still playing hardball in an organized league!

  • John

    At the age of three, I contracted polio in 1946 while living in the Seattle area. I had lost the function of both legs. I have the right to state God watched over me and allowed me to walk out of the Childrens Hospital, Seattle without any paralysis or loss of function, etc. I was truly blessed and have been thankful ever since. I dedicated my life to treating people, first as a U.S.Navy Hospital Corpsman(1961-65) while attached to the USMC and then went on to chiropractic college. I retired last year after 38+ years of practice. I have had no latent sequelae. I turn 67 years old May 4. Thanks, God.

    • s c

      John, here are my late thanks for your service to America. It seems safe to say that God was indeed watching over you for your whole life.
      Dr. Salk, I believe, was a man who is quite rare these days. He didn’t confuse business with science, and he didn’t rely on his medical peers to protect his reputation.
      Obviously, Dr. Salk wasn’t in Big Pharma’s back pocket, and he probably would say few good things about the pig sty created by the FDA. In short, I’d trust Dr. Salk to take care of me or my family. Most American MDs aren’t in Dr. Salk’s league. He earned his reputation. I wish the same could be said about today’s MDs in America.

  • http://N/A al

    diane ,i read the book too and others like “fear of the invisable” / janine roberts. i believe the vaccines are a dangerous hoax or something akin to it . i got contaminated salk’s and developed lymphoma . no one is willing to admit it may be the cause . after several years looking into the contamination issues associated with vaccines , i feel they are basicly DANGEROUS!! ppls need to look into the bigest picture conscerning the mass vaccine programs all the history and etc . vaccine technology was in use in china in the 1199′s . it was realized by jesuit francis xavier and brought to the west. jenners knew about the notion of vaccination from his catholic schooling . he didn’t invent vaccines. he just exploited an old idea with cow pus proceedures/ smallpox vaccines !! its a very older idea. it has been suggested the romans used vaccine schemes to try to kill off the protestant resistors at the extreme edges of the roman empire / eng . included . nowdays time lines and charting clearly shows paralells with mass vaccination and cancers and immune disease . ok al

  • Dr. Robert Stephan

    For the real story, research the work of Dr. Frederich Klenner who was using mega doses of IV vitamin C to cure and prevent the paralysis of polio in his practice in North Carolina. The battle of research creditability between Klenner and Sabin is another disaster in the history of medicine.Klenner’s research shows there is no known pathogen that is not dealt with by the proper dose and length of exposure to vitamin C. Work that is still virtually unknown.


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