Vaccination of young children against polio was opposed by JFK officials

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America has moved forward in the fight against a deadly virus that is a very effective vaccine. Of course, the virus has not only disappeared, and millions of unvaccinated children remain vulnerable to its devastating effects.

In 1961, the virus was polio. Six years have passed since the vaccine announced by Jonas Salk was approved, and the incidence of the disease has dropped dramatically since the vaccination was successfully completed.

However, scattered epidemics continued, especially in poor cities. More than half of the U.S. population has been vaccinated, and President John F. Kennedy is particularly concerned that 4.8 million children, most of them under the age of five, have not been vaccinated.

“I hope that this spring and summer, an updated disc to provide immunization to all Americans, especially young people, will have the sincere support of every parent in America,” Kennedy told a news conference in April 1961.

Despite the fact that many parents have received the vaccine, the country’s experience with polio has shown the difficulty of vaccinating the youngest children – a recurring problem in today’s coronavirus pandemic.

More than two years after the pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration approved vaccines for children under the age of 5 on Friday, and vaccinations will be available next week. According to a report released last month by the Kaiser Family Foundation, only one in five parents says they will vaccinate those young children as soon as possible. In November, children between the ages of 5 and 11 were eligible for the vaccine, but only 10 parents said their children had been vaccinated, the report said.

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However, unlike coronavirus, polio is most severe in children. Therefore, Kennedy and the public health authorities were particularly concerned about the gap in vaccination among children.

Since the first outbreak of polio in the United States in 1894, parents have believed in the vaccine as a paralysis and death threat to children. “Polio: Polio: The American Story” by David Oshinsky. Volunteering for the experiment was seen as an honor; “The standard phrase ‘I give permission’ on parental consent forms has been changed to ‘I ask,'” Oshinsky said.

But while the schools served as a “safety net” and later helped manage large volumes of vaccines, they also helped to accommodate backward infants and preschoolers, said James Colgrow, a professor of social and medical sciences at Columbia University.

Until 1955, children between the ages of 5 and 9 were at risk of contracting polio, says Elena Konis, “The Vaccine Nation: A Change in America’s Attitude Toward Immunization.” By the end of the decade, polio was concentrated in children under 5 years of age.

This was particularly the case among poor families in urban areas. For example, when the polio epidemic broke out in Providence in 1960, epidemiologists determined that the disease was almost exclusively for children in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, wrote Conis, a journalism professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

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The main reason for the disproportion between the polio vaccine and the disproportion, he said, was that children’s visits had shifted from public clinics to private pediatric offices, “increasing the middle class environment”. The cold vaccine required three injections, plus an amplifier, which meant multiple visits to the doctor.

Kennedy’s 1962 Vaccination Promotion Act, which sought to close the gap in vaccines, provided states with funding for polio, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccination programs. He also identified the leading role of the federal government in coordinating immunization policy, a role that has become particularly important and controversial during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Modern immunization and the story of society begin with Kennedy’s proposal,” Conis wrote.

The federal government has also launched public health campaigns. One of them, “Babies and Bread Eaters,” focuses on vaccinating infants and men who are at risk, although not as vulnerable as children. (Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was paralyzed below the waist after being diagnosed with polio at the age of 39, was the most famous case).

A few months after Kennedy’s press conference, the government issued a license for Albert Sabin’s oral polio vaccine. According to Kolgrov, the relative ease of delivery of oral doses has revived the vaccination campaign. On Sabine Sundays, millions of children, as well as adults, delivered their free doses to churches and schools, often in sugar cubes. The federal public health campaign featured a cartoon bee named Wellbee, which encouraged children to “get a free polio vaccine.”

Until 1979, the United States was declared polio-free because of the widespread use of the vaccine.

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Polio vaccines have changed the epidemiology of the disease – the vast majority of cases, mainly in poor cities with low levels of vaccination – have continued for other diseases once vaccines became available. A few years after the first measles vaccine was introduced in 1963, Konis wrote, new epidemics were concentrated in low-income areas of cities with low vaccination rates.

The 1960s also saw a new round of vaccine rejection among some middle-class parents, many of whom were influenced by social movements at the time. According to Conis, they began to question the need for vaccination, which seemed to be part of their daily routine, even though it could lead to diseases such as measles and death.

The persistence of preventable diseases has led to a reluctance to persuade and coerce children.

In 1968, half of the states required vaccinations to enroll in schools. An employee of the Centers for Disease and Prevention said, “It is difficult to reach a single preschool child in the settlement, but it should be relatively easy to conduct a campaign to achieve a high level of vaccination in kindergartens, and grades 1 and 2 in schools.” . , According to the “Vaccine Nation.”

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In 1977, the federal government allocated funds to help states implement mandatory immunization programs, including monitoring progress and auditing student accounts. As a result, according to Colgrove, all states have mandatory school immunization requirements by 1981.

According to Kolgrov, a lesson learned from the country’s experience with polio and other infectious diseases is that the most effective way to provide vaccinations for the youngest children is to require them before they start school.

But the question is whether this lesson applies to Kovid. Children are not affected by adults. According to a report released by Kaiser last month, more than half of parents with children under the age of 5 who have developed and released vaccines at record rates say they do not know enough about the safety or effectiveness of the vaccine.

Moreover, distrust of institutions, including the government, is strong. “It’s a more complex vaccine to spread through schools,” Kolgrov said. Speaking about the success of polio vaccination in schools, he added: “We are no longer in such an environment.”

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