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Medical history 60 years of mass polio vaccination: "Polio is cruel, oral vaccination is sweet"
Just as AIDS was the big issue in the 1980s, it was the fear of polio in the 1950s. Thousands of people fell victim to the disease in Germany every year. Medicine invested in research - a large centrifuge was built in Heidelberg to isolate the pathogen in the first place. That was in 1953.
First vaccine inadequate
In the following years, the first vaccines were developed, produced in Germany by the Marburger Behringwerke. The Hessian authorities already granted approval for this at the end of 1954. In 1955 50,000 children were vaccinated with it. But after a few weeks the vaccine was blocked again.
An incident in the USA had resulted in additional requirements. It was actually an inactive vaccine at the time. However, due to deficiencies in production, viruses that had not been killed got into the vaccine. The requirements for vaccine production have been expanded, and the German vaccine has still not been approved.
April 1957: Start of the first mass vaccination with vaccine from the USA
It was clear that in order to get a vaccination program up and running quickly, vaccine had to be imported from the United States. It was unclear whether the USA would be able to supply enough vaccine itself - because the US health authorities understandably applied: America first.
In April 1957 the first mass vaccination finally started. The large distribution center was in Mannheim. Overall, this first mass vaccination showed little effect: the infection rates initially only decreased slowly - and the vaccinations could not prevent a new polio epidemic in Germany at the end of the 1950s.
Only oral vaccination from 1961 pushes pathogens back
It was only with the introduction of the live vaccine in 1961 that the pathogen was really pushed back. That was the oral vaccination given to children with a lump of sugar. And in order to guarantee success, one sentence has been hammered into Germans over and over for more than twenty years: "Polio is cruel, oral vaccination is sweet".
In 1998, oral vaccination was abolished in this country. Since then, children have been injected with a further developed dead vaccine, in which the administered viruses are unable to multiply. Europe has been polio-free for 15 years. And by next year, the World Health Organization hopes to eradicate the pathogen across the globe.
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