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Hidden History of Polio Vaccine

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Regardless of why polio is no longer seen as a major threat, the history of the polio vaccines is one of horrific consequences that few Americans know anything about.

At the 11th hour, a bacteriologist at NIH was told to safety-test the new polio vaccine. Her name was Bernice Eddy. When she injected the vaccine into her monkeys, they fell paralyzed in their cages. Eddy realized that the virus in the vaccine was not dead as promised, but still alive and ready to multiply. It was time to sound the alarm. She sent pictures of the paralyzed monkeys to NIH's management and warned them of the upcoming tragedy. A debate erupted in the corridors of power. Was the polio vaccine really ready? Should the mass inoculation proceed on schedule?

A handful of prominent doctors across the country stepped into the fray to throw the weight of their reputations on the side of the vaccine. One of these doctors was Mary Sherman's boss, Dr. Alton Ochsner. (Editor's note: Mary Sherman is the Mary in the book title and Alton Ochsner was one of the most prominent doctors in New Orleans where the secret monkey virus lab exposed by this book was located.) To demonstrate his conviction that the vaccine was really ready, Dr. Ochsner inoculated his own grandchildren with it.

The mass inoculation proceeded on schedule. Within days, children fell sick from polio, some were crippled, some died. Estimates vary dramatically. (The truth will never be known--TV) Ochsner's grandson died. His granddaughter contracted polio but survived. An enormous lawsuit erupted. Heads rolled everywhere. The Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (Oveta Hobby) stepped down. The Director of the National Institute of Health (NIH), Dr. William Sebrell, resigned. It was the biggest fiasco in medical history. A second, safer vaccine developed by Albert Sabin was deployed. It used a weakened live virus instead of a dead virus. It worked. Polio was history; the future was safe--or so it seemed."

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