1954 Polio Pioneer

1954 Polio Pioneer

March 23, 2010 Anonymous

Were you a polio pioneer, or are you related to someone who was? We’re looking for people who participated in the groundbreaking trial for Jonas Salk’s killed-virus polio vaccine in 1954.

We’d love to talk with you about your experience. We’re also hoping to get photograph of a Polio Pioneer card, a card given to children for participating in the first national tests of a trial polio vaccine conducted during 1954. (For reference, see a photograph of a Polio Pioneer card on the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s excellent web exhibit on the history of polio vaccine development.) Email us at vaccines@collegeofphysicians.org to let us know about your experiences as a Polio Pioneer. [Edit 3/8/2013: Thank you to so many of you who sent us pictures of your cards. Feel free to keep sending them if you wish, but we do have quite a few now.]


Posted by James Willow (not verified)

I was going to PS 57 in the Bronx when I received my shot,I think it was in 53 or 54

Posted by Dan Bell (not verified)

I was a Polio Pioneer in Kimball, West Virginia.  I think it was my whole 3rd grade class in 1953.

Posted by Marie Wilbur (not verified)

I was a polio pioneer in Britton, Michigan.  I remember being taken on a bus full of kids to another town three times for inoculation.  Unfortunately, I was one of those who was in the control group and not given shots of actual vaccine.  I was not happy to be later taken 3 more times for shots of the actual vaccine once it was proven effective.

Posted by Gail (not verified)

I still have both the card and pin I received for being a Polio Pioneer as a 2nd grade student at Oak Ridge Elementary School in Royal Oak, Michigan.  The card and pin are among my most prized possession.  Jonas Salk has always been my #1 hero.

Posted by Cheri Johnston (not verified)

Late to the party! Just coming across this in November, 2017. 

I'm a Polio Pioneer, although I didn't know we had a name--or a pin! I participated in third grade while at John H Reagan Elementary in Dallas, Texas. Wish I knew what my parents were thinking regarding my being in the field trial, but everyone was scared of polio in those years. I have a vague memory of being transported to another school to receive the vaccine or placebo (no idea which). I remember feeling special, and on one of the 3 occasions, evidently I passed out. I just remember the ammonia being held under my nose to bring me around.

What an amazing story of quick research, results, and volunteer efforts---as I understand it, the largest peace-time volunteer effort in American history, with more than 300,000 medical personnel and others.



Posted by Phillip Franks (not verified)

I am a polio pioneer, was given the real thing. I have my card somewhere.

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