In celebration of the Polio vaccine pioneer’s 100th birthday, Google unveiled a special Jonas Salk doodle today. At The Guardian, Pete Etchells compares the eager social climate that supported the polio vaccine’s development to that of today’s creeping vaccine skepticism:
One other aspect of Salk’s story still plays a vital role in the development and use of vaccines today: public support. In many ways, the 1954 field tests of the polio vaccine are a major success story in public health and scientific engagement – according to some sources, a Gallup poll that year showed that more Americans knew about the trials than could give the full name of then president, Dwight Eisenhower. In short, it appeared that there was unprecedented support for the vaccine.
It is therefore a sad and strange irony that there now appears to be a growing backlash against vaccines in the US and UK – particularly the MMR vaccine. Since Andrew Wakefield published a fraudulent paper in 1998 purporting to show a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, incidences of measles and mumps have risen greatly. Despite this, and despite studies showing clear costs to society when vaccine rates drop, antivaccinationists still insist on ignoring the evidence when it comes to immunising children. It therefore seems like the celebration of Salk’s 100thbirthday is an apt time to remember how hugely important vaccination is – not just on an individual level, but for public health as a whole.