Last week saw the 60th anniversary of an event which changed the world. 25th April 1954, saw Randy Kerr, a six-year-old American boy, become the first human recipient of the Polio vaccination as part of a successful and pioneering medical field study conducted by the University of Toronto. Now, with Polio eradicated in most of the world and as The British Polio Fellowship celebrates its own 75th Anniversary, charity CEO Ted Hill has applauded the historical work of those researchers in delivering the vaccine, but also insists more medical understanding is required as 120,000 are still suffering from the late effects of Polio, and Post Polio Syndrome (PPS) in the UK.
The work, conducted at the university’s Cannaught Medical Research Laboratory, found a successful way of manufacturing Jonas Salk’s vaccine on a mass scale, contributing to the eventual eradication of Polio in the western world. A synthetic medium of the virus was used to infect cells from the kidney tissue of monkeys, in doing so they created a large quantity of the virus that could subsequently be killed, and then used as a vaccine to administer to humans.
“When our charity was formed, Polio was a disease which kept a generation living in fear,” said Ted Hill, CEO of the British Polio Fellowship. “Following the work of those who created and distributed the vaccine, anyone who received it had a better chance of living a healthy life without fear or risk of Polio.”
Between 1947 and 1958 polio claimed more than 3000 lives and disabled over 30,000 people and although the vaccine became available in 1962, millions in the UK didn’t receive it ‘til a while after the research was complete as many were unaware of Polio and the dangers those who contracted it faced. Even those who contracted the disease in this period were left with lasting problems in the form of the late effects of Polio, and more latterly PPS. The British Polio Fellowship is working to inform those in the medical profession of the effects of PPS, with many GPs still unaware the condition exists and the symptoms it causes.
“Not everyone with Polio died,” explained Ted. “Those who survived were left with at worst total paralysis and at best wasted limbs, permanent disability and muscle fatigue. If that wasn’t enough, survivors have been having to struggle with PPS a debilitating neurological condition, that up to 80% of people who contracted Polio in earlier life can develop; bringing with it new or increasing muscle weakness and pain, swallowing and breathing problems and chronic fatigue.”
The anniversary of the vaccine’s creation also coincides with the 55th anniversary of the death of former Birmingham City and England footballer Jeff Hall, whose passing, in the peak of his playing career, brought the virus into the public eye raising awareness of the disease and creating a clamour for the newly invented vaccination. The club recognised this date by holding a fundraising day at their home fixture against Blackburn Rovers.
The British Polio Fellowship is a charity dedicated to helping, supporting and empowering those in the UK living with the late effects of Polio and PPS. For more details or information on The British Polio Fellowship, call us on 0800 043 1935, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at www.britishpolio.org.uk