7/28/2017

How blow by vaccinating 900,000 people in two days

Theda Plunkett was 92 years old, waiting in line for a sugar cube.
Standing beside her in the line snaking out of Lakewood Elementary School was her great-great-grandson, John, 4 years old. He was waiting for his sugar cube, too.
It was Sunday, July 29, 1962, D-Day in Dallas for the fight against the scourge of polio. For the first half of the 20th century, the disease had crippled and killed Americans by the tens of thousands, falling hardest on children. Now, there was an answer, the Sabin vaccine — two pink drops dribbled atop those sugar cubes.
Health officials knew the vaccine was effective. The problem was distribution — getting every man, woman and child the necessary dose.
They decided to make a push to vaccinate as many people as possible in one sweeping effort — throwing open the doors of area schools and calling the people in at once.
So it was that last Sunday in July, Theda and John queued up with hundreds of thousands of others to get a thimble-size paper cup that held a lump of sugar laced with the  vaccine. As temperatures soared into the mid-90s, a steady stream of young and old, rich and poor, families of every race and ethnicity joined the lines.
It was probably the largest peacetime mobilization ever undertaken in North Texas, and one that required a mutual trust among government officials, the public and the medical community that seems unfathomable in today’s polarized environment.














“It was  a wonderful example of people in the country pulling together. Just like rationing in World War II, people went along with it,” said Dr. Tony Herring, a pediatric surgeon and chief of staff emeritus at Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, which for decades provided treatment for polio victims.
It was a bold idea. Even in 1962, with about 700,000 residents, Dallas was one of the largest cities in the country, ranking 14th in the 1960 census two years earlier. The population of Dallas County was around 1 million.
“The overall goal was to provide vaccine for everybody, adults and children,  and to not have any more polio,”  said Dr. Percy Luecke Jr., the pediatrician whom the Dallas Medical Society chose to help lead the campaign and persuade the public to get immunized.
Now 91 and recovering from surgery at a rehabilitation facility near his Lakewood home, Luecke clearly remembered the mass immunization campaign that he led 55 years ago. Pulling himself up straight in his wheelchair, he said of his ambitious goal:  
“I wanted a million.”

Shadow of polio

The post-World War II baby boom of the 1950s was in full swing when Luecke graduated from medical school at Washington University in St. Louis and returned home to Dallas to practice pediatric medicine.
But even in an era of national triumphalism, marked by a booming economy and unshakable faith in American know-how, polio remained a terrifying threat.
A pediatrician, just like his father, Luecke had seen how the disease could devastate.

<p><span style="font-size: 1em; background-color: transparent;">In 1962, Dr. Percy Luecke Jr. led a bold campaign to vaccinate 1 million residents of Dallas County against polio. Now 91, Luecke proudly recalls the effort and has a scrapbook with news articles about the campaign.  </span></p>
In 1962, Dr. Percy Luecke Jr. led a bold campaign to vaccinate 1 million residents of Dallas County against polio. Now 91, Luecke proudly recalls the effort and has a scrapbook with news articles about the campaign.  
The polio virus was passed hand to mouth via tiny particles of feces. Little kids would pass it to their friends or siblings. Swimming pools and movie theaters -- so popular in rising America -- became places to avoid, especially in the summer months, considered high season for the contagious disease. "It was very easily spread," Herring said.
Polio resulted in temporary paralysis in the muscles, especially the legs, that could last a few weeks, months or even a lifetime. In some cases, when breathing muscles failed, the disease proved fatal.
Children diagnosed with the disease were considered highly contagious for three to six weeks and would be immediately isolated in polio wards, typically at Parkland Hospital. Such was the fear of polio that in the early 1920s, some towns in Connecticut banned New York City children from visiting.
“And in some cities you could be put in jail if you didn’t report that your child had polio,” said Herring, who became an expert on polio after producing a 2003 documentary,  A Fight to the Finish: Stories of Polio.
After children with polio in North Texas passed the stage of contagion, most of them went to Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas, which started in the early 1920s as a place to treat victims of the disease.

In the shade of large trees at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital  for Children in Dallas, five young polio patients lay  on special stretchers designed to straighten and stretch their legs in 1940. (Texas Scottish Rite Hospital)
In the shade of large trees at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas, five young polio patients lay  on special stretchers designed to straighten and stretch their legs in 1940.   
(Texas Scottish Rite Hospital) 
That included leg braces and intensive physical therapy. For those who couldn’t breathe on their own, there were respirators, better known as iron lungs, which became the iconic object associated with the disease — a round, metal cylinder that covered the body except for the head.

Texas hard-hit by polio

The worst year for polio was 1952, with 58,000 cases reported across the United States. That year, the epidemic hit Texas as hard as any state. Cases swelled from around 900 at the end of World War II in 1945 to 4,000 in 1952 — 7 percent of all cases in the U.S. that year.
“Polio was the biggest public health problem in the United States at midcentury,” said Dr. James Luby, an infectious diseases specialist and professor at UT Southwestern who was in medical school in the late 1950s.  “We were seeing increased number of cases in Texas. It was fortunate that the vaccine came along in 1955.”

That year,  a scientist in Pittsburgh, Dr. Jonas Salk, developed a dead polio virus that could be used to inoculate people from the living disease. Vaccinations began right away. A few years later, in 1961, Dr. Albert Sabin developed an oral version that proved more effective. The Sabin oral vaccine was a live virus, weakened in the laboratory, then dried and frozen before being shipped around the country. Cheaper and easier to administer, the oral vaccine was seen as the silver bullet in the fight against polio.

<p>Dr. Jonas Salk (right), the scientist who developed the first polio vaccine, administers an injection to a boy in Pittsburgh. The Salk vaccine came into use in 1955. The oral vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin and was used on the public starting in 1961. (File Photo/The Associated Press)</p>
Dr. Jonas Salk (right), the scientist who developed the first polio vaccine, administers an injection to a boy in Pittsburgh. The Salk vaccine came into use in 1955. The oral vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin and was used on the public starting in 1961. (File Photo/The Associated Press)
The public embraced the work of Salk and Sabin, both of whom were hailed as heroes. Fear of the disease overcame any anxiety about taking the vaccine, Herring said. “I don’t think there was much resistance,” he said. “People were so afraid of polio and so excited that they had something that would prevent it.”

The Dallas campaign

Luecke was 35 years old when the Dallas County Medical Society chose him to be the spokesman for the local campaign. His job was to help mobilize community leaders and persuade the public to take the new vaccine, and he was fully committed to the cause.
“People were dying, and we had an opportunity to keep that from going further,” he said.
Luecke quickly became a familiar face throughout Dallas as he spoke to different groups and at news conferences. The Dallas Morning Newsdescribed him as calm, well-respected by his peers, “a neat dresser and partly bald.” Married with four children, he emphasized wherever he went that his family would also get the oral vaccine.

The mass immunizations were scheduled for back-to-back Sundays — July 29 and Aug. 5 — to make sure that those who couldn’t make it the first Sunday had another chance.
Religious and political leaders from all corners of Dallas County promoted the campaign, which also drew strong support from the medical community, schools and businesses. Luecke needed about 30 volunteers, including doctors and nurses, in each of the 90 senior high, junior high and elementary schools where the vaccine would be distributed.  
Volunteers stepped forward from the Red Cross, PTAs and the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis — the group that organized the March of Dimes, a grass-roots movement that relied on thousands of volunteers.
When the Red Cross issued an appeal for volunteers, more than a thousand residents called in and officials were fielding 175 calls an hour in the morning. Some people complained that they had tried calling for hours and couldn’t get through.
Altogether, the number of volunteers swelled to 4,500.

Polio cases rising

The week leading up to the first Sunday drive, The News carried a story that Dallas County had recorded its 15th case of polio, a 13-month-old girl who was paralyzed in her legs and back

The number of polio cases throughout Texas was rising sharply. Through the first 28 weeks of 1962, Texas recorded 113 cases of polio, according to federal public health data reported by The News. During the same period a year earlier, there had been just 31 cases.
John McKee, then the president of Scottish Rite Hospital,  urged the public to take the mass immunization campaign seriously. “If people don’t realize how serious polio is and the importance of getting the Sabin vaccine July 29 [or] Aug. 5, tell them they can just drop by the hospital,” McKee said.  
To help speed up the process, newspapers printed registration forms to be handed in at the vaccination centers. Grocery stores also carried the forms.
Three days before the drive, officials said they were prepared to handle as many as 3,000 people an hour at each site. Everyone 6 weeks of age and over could get immunized. The vaccine was free, but donations of 25 cents or more would be accepted to help defray costs.
Even those people who had already received the earlier Salk vaccine shot were encouraged to get the oral vaccine as a booster. The oral vaccine also eliminated the possibility of a person being a carrier.  

On July 26, three days before the drive, the vaccine arrived at Dallas Love Field. It was stored in big freezers loaned to the campaign by General Electric.
The day of the drive, at least 500 automobiles on loan from new car dealers cruised neighborhoods to give free rides to the vaccine sites, which opened at noon and closed at 6 p.m.
Any worries about turnout quickly faded. At Thomas Jefferson High School north of Love Field,  3,500 people had already taken the vaccine in the first 35 minutes. Ten thousand people were vaccinated in six hours at Adamson High School in Oak Cliff.

<i>The Dallas Morning News</i> had extensive coverage of the effort after the initial day of mass vaccinations. 
The Dallas Morning News had extensive coverage of the effort after the initial day of mass vaccinations.  
There were some lighter moments. One volunteer took a call from a man who asked if he could still take the vaccine because he’d “been hitting the old bottle pretty hard,” according to a story the next day in The News. At Hillcrest High in North Dallas, a professional clown entertained residents lined up for blocks.
By the end of the day, the preliminary results showed 590,000 Dallas County residents received  the Sabin oral vaccine that Sunday. Another 233,220 residents got vaccinated the following Sunday, Aug. 5. But officials estimated that the final tally would come in at around 950,000, ensuring an immunization rate well over 90 percent.
“I think the public was convinced that the problem was significant. They were convinced as to the efficacy of the vaccines,” said Luby, the professor in the division of infectious diseases at UT Southwestern.  And members of the public were convinced they could play a role in defeating the disease by getting immunized, he said.
And they did.

Since 1979, zero cases of polio have originated in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On a few rare occasions, the disease has been brought into the country by a traveler.
The best way  to keep the U.S. polio-free, according to the CDC, is to maintain the high immunity against polio by vaccination. When Luecke would go around town speaking to groups during the 1962 campaign, he would occasionally encounter someone who was afraid of taking the vaccine.
“Not as many as there are now,” he said, lamenting the rise of anti-vaccine advocates.
“A lot of people today have their own ideas of what they should do,” Luecke said. “There was not as much of that back then. Most of the time in the 1960s and before, people accepted immunizations.”
He’s proud of the way the people of Dallas County pulled together that last Sunday in July 1962.
 “I was glad to be involved with that,” he said. “I was very satisfied with the way it turned out. We got a whole lot of help from everybody.”

The Polio Crusade

THE POLIO CRUSADE IN AMERICAN EXPERIENCE A GOOD VIDEO THE STORY OF THE POLIO CRUSADE pays tribute to a time when Americans banded together to conquer a terrible disease. The medical breakthrough saved countless lives and had a pervasive impact on American philanthropy that ... Continue reading..http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/polio/

Erradicación de La poliomielitis

Polio Tricisilla Adaptada