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Polio Vaccine Marks 50th Anniversary

On April 12, 1955 at 10:20 a.m., church bells all over the country rang to celebrate the announcement of the development of a successful vaccine to prevent polio. This was a unique moment in our contemporary culture. That date culminated more than 17 years of research that led to the licensure of the first poliovirus vaccine. The vaccine breakthrough was driven by Jonas Salk and his team of scientists at the University of Pittsburgh and the pioneering field trials led by Thomas Francis Jr. at the University of Michigan. The research was funded by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, today known as the March of Dimes.

The fight against polio brought together communities in a national collaboration that at that time was the largest human cooperative effort in history. In the days leading up to the vaccine's approval, children in communities across the United States participated in the field trials as America's "Polio Pioneers." The University of Michigan analyzed the results of the field trials to help ascertain the safety, effectiveness, and potency of the vaccine. Thousands of health-care workers and lay people volunteered their time to assist with the vaccine field trials, the largest ever in United States history. Millions of Americans participated by raising funds in their communities to support the larger research effort and a single goal: victory over polio.

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