'It's going to be a long road': His father developed the polio vaccine. This is what he thinks about COVID-19.
Dr. Jonas Salk, developer of the polio vaccine, holds a rack of test tubes in his laboratory in Pittsburgh on October 7, 1954.
Dr. Peter Salk vaguely remembers the day he was vaccinated against polio in 1953.
His father, Dr. Jonas Salk, made history with the development of the polio vaccine at the University of Pittsburgh and vaccinated his family as soon as he felt safe and effective.
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Although the vaccine has not yet been studied, Salk was among the first children to receive the vaccine when she was 9 years old.
"My dad had brought home a vaccine (and) this terrible piece of equipment that neither my brothers nor my brothers were very fond of," he told USA TODAY. "Large glass syringes and reusable needles that had to be sterilized by boiling over the stove."
Salk remembers getting the shot while standing next to his brothers in the kitchen of their family home outside of Pittsburgh. Two weeks later the boys visited their father at the D.T. Watson home for crippled children to get their second shot. This time cameras were waiting for them.
“I remember hiding from injections. There was a large trash can next to the refrigerator and I decided to take an opportunity to crouch behind it and be invisible, ”Salk said. "Which of course didn't work."
Cases of polio peaked in the early 1950s, but would arrive every summer and for decades disabled an average of more than 35,000 people a year, sometimes resulting in paralysis and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials closed swimming pools, cinemas, amusement parks, and other recreational pursuits that naturally came with summer vacation.
The highly infectious disease spreads through contact with infected feces, often when children didn't wash their hands properly, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Jonas Salk's vaccine has helped remove polio from most of the world, which is what many people are hoping for with the coronavirus vaccine. However, Salk warns that polio eradication in the US has been a long and difficult journey, and he doesn't expect eradicating COVID-19 to be any easier.
Salk is a doctor and part-time professor of infectious diseases at the University of Pittsburgh, where his father developed the polio vaccine. He also directs the Jonas Salk Legacy Foundation.
"It will be a long way to go just getting enough vaccines to people around the world ... this virus doesn't respect borders," he said. "It goes by air all over the world and if this virus isn't everywhere, it will keep spreading and be a problem."
Dr. Jonas Salk gives a vaccine injection to a girl at Colfax Elementary School in Pittsburgh, Penn. in 1954.
Jonas Salk's polio vaccine was shown to be safe and effective in 1954 after the largest study in the country's history involving around 1.8 million children. However, it took the U.S. more than 20 years to eradicate polio. No polio cases have occurred in the United States since 1979, according to the CDC.
Approximately 3 million people, mostly frontline health workers, were vaccinated against the coronavirus after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BionNTech and Moderna.
Federal officials estimate 20 million cans will be made and available for shipping by early January, an additional 30 million cans by the end of the month, and an additional 50 million by the end of February.
Minister of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said vaccines should be available to the general public as early as late February or early March. However, most experts believe that vaccines won't become widely available until late spring or early summer, provided there are no production issues and the FDA approves two more vaccines by February.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis watches as nurse Christine Philips delivers the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 to Vera Leip, 88, who first lives in John Knox Village on December 16 in Pompano Beach, Florida State to get the vaccine.
Logistics aside, another hurdle that will take some time to overcome is the vaccine's hesitation, Salk said.
In a recent USA TODAY / Suffolk University poll of 1,000 registered voters, 46% said they will take the vaccine as soon as possible. Meanwhile, 32% say they will wait for others to take the record before they do it themselves.
Two-thirds of Democrats, 67%, are ready to take the vaccine as soon as possible. The percentage of Republicans willing to take the vaccine is lower than the percentage that says they would never take it, 35% versus 36%.
But vaccine hesitation isn't new in America, Salk said. According to a Gallup poll in 1954, when the field trial began, only 53% of Americans said the vaccine would work.
Austin M. Cook, a manager of supply chain and automation for pharmacies at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC), rolls a cart while people in the hospital receive some of the first doses of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID on Monday, December -19 vaccine received on 14, 2020, on the 12th floor of the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital in Iowa City, Iowa. 201214 Ia Pfizer Cv Vaccine 007 Jpg
"Even then, Salk was hesitant about the extent to which people were afraid of polio and wanted a vaccine," Salk said. "I was surprised to see that."
Salk's father attempted to counter this setback by vaccinating his family and co-workers to instill a level of trust before expanding clinical trials to the greater Pittsburgh area and later to the rest of the nation. (Government oversight laws would not allow this today.)
The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis - now called the March for Dimes - also enlisted the help of some of the most famous personalities of the time, including Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Marilyn Monroe, Louis Armstrong, Grace Kelly, and even Elvis Presley.
Actress Marilyn Monroe with March of Dimes figureheads Linda and Sandra Solomon from 1958 and the 14th annual March of Dimes fashion show in 1958.
The US government has begun participating in a similar campaign for the coronavirus vaccine. Some high-profile figures have chosen to have public vaccination, including Vice President Mike Pence, Director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and President-elect Joe Biden.
While the US is a long way from eliminating COVID-19 like polio, Salk is impressed with the coronavirus vaccines and hopes for the future.
"Even with polio vaccines, it's been a very complex road we've come," he said. "It's early in the game and we need to keep an eye on all of the people vaccinated ... (but) we're on the right track and the results are extremely promising."
Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.
US TODAY health and patient safety coverage is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide any editorial contributions.
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: COVID Vaccine: Salk's Son Talks Polio Vaccine, The Future Of Coronavirus
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