Polio pioneer

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Miller, Gordon
Audio recording and transcript of Gordon Miller's March 2009 presentation to the Nanaimo Historical Society about the development of the polio vaccine. After finding a card indicating that he was a “Polio Pioneer,” Miller researched the history of the disease, and learned that in the summer of 1954, he had participated in a medical trial to test the effectiveness of the Salk polio vaccine. In his presentation, Miller outlines the effects of polio, and explains early treatment and prevention efforts. Miller describes the advocacy work of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and his founding of the March of Dimes, originally called the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, an organization focused on polio prevention. Miller then goes on to introduce the work of Dr. Jonas Salk, a vaccine specialist from Pittsburgh, who with the help of Toronto’s Connaught Laboratories, went on to develop a polio vaccine. In 1954, 1.8 million North American school children were involved in clinical trials to test the effectiveness of the Salk vaccine, including Canadian children from Alberta, Manitoba, and Halifax. These children, including Miller, were given “Polio Pioneer” cards for participating in the trials. The vaccine was generally considered to be successful and safe, and was an important step in public health. The presentation concludes with members from the audience sharing their recollections and stories about polio.