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Sixtieth Anniversary for Polio Pioneers

April 25, 2014 Karie Youngdahl

Card from the 1954 Salk vaccine trial, courtesy Marsha DrakeSixty years ago tomorrow the largest clinical trial in history began. On April 26, 1954, thousands of U.S. schoolchildren rolled up their sleeves to take Jonas Salk’s inactivated poliovirus vaccine. Newspapers reported that Randall Kerr of McClean, Virginia, was the first child in the trial to get the shot. (Thousands of others in earlier stages of research had received the vaccine, including Salk’s wife and children.)

The 1954 trial was blinded, meaning that the children didn’t know whether they received the vaccine or a saline placebo injection. Regardless, most viewed themselves if not exactly as test subjects (which they certainly were) but as Polio Pioneers, as they and their parents were encouraged to think of them. About 1.3 million first- second- and third-graders participated in the trial as vaccine recipients (about 422,000), placebo recipients (about 201,000), and observed control subjects (about 725,000) (see the official report on the trial for details on the study design). About nine months after the trial ended, Thomas Francis, MD, announced in April 1955 that the vaccine group had significantly fewer cases of polio than the control groups, and the vaccine was licensed.

Over the past few years, scores of participants in the 1954 vaccine trials have posted comments on this blog. Many participants recall being afraid both of getting the shots and of getting polio, and many remember friends and family members who became ill with polio. Memory can be tricky: several people remembered getting the polio “drops” in this trial – though the oral vaccine, in liquid form, would not be used for several more years. They were probably revaccinated with the oral vaccine later because of its better immunogenicity.

Most of the participants I’ve corresponded with take pride in their role in the trial. But some of them question the methods used to enroll children in the trial and remark on the changes we’ve seen since the 1950s in the ethical considerations that guide medical research.

Below are some of their reminiscences, taken directly from their blog comments. (The original blog post is here. And you can read more about the history of polio and the vaccine at our timeline.)


I was in first or 2nd grade, at Winthrop Avenue Elementary School in Bellmore NY in 1954. My father was the school Doctor and he had to administer the Polio Vaccines to all the children. It was a test where half the children received a Placebo and the other half got the salk polio vaccine. My father learned that i was to get the placebo, so he told me that during the day when we had to get the polio vaccine shots- there were three shots at different days- I would get the placebo. However at night he would take the real vaccine and bring it home - he took enough for me and my younger brother my mother and himself. We all were sworn to secrecy- However he said MY kids are not going to be guinea pigs. Even at a young age of 6 or 7 years I was scared but proud. My father was brave but even then there was a sense that the vaccine was important and he was not going to have his kids take a placebo and be vulnerable to the ravages of polio. Throughout the years until he died we had a difficult relationship but I must admit that even now I was proud that I was a true Polio Pioneer= even if it was a secret-I GOT A POLIO PIONEER METAL PIN -Sara


I was a Polio Pioneer and still have my Polio Pioneer card. I received the shots in or around 1954, while attending EF Swinney grade school in Kansas City, Mo. I remember standing in line, awaiting the shot. -Anonymous


I was also a Polio Pioneer in the 2nd grade at Nathan Hale Elementary in Huntington, NY. I remember my parents having some heated conversations about my participation. We had the sugar cubes; not shots and I received the real vaccine. -Cory


I was a polio pioneer in 1954 and have the card which my mother kept in my school scrapbook. I remember that I didn’t like getting shots, but was brave and didn’t flinch! Also I was very glad to find out that we got the real thing, not the placebo, because that meant that I was already vaccinated and didn’t need more shots. My mother reinforced the idea that we should be very proud to be Polio Pioneers, but it was a little bit scary to me that we were being guinea pigs, actually injecting a virus into us, even though it was killed. -Juliana

As I remember there was only one child in our grade school of 200 who came down with polio before the vaccine and he lived just down the street from me, so it was scary back then thinking it might happen to us next. We were all very glad that a vaccine was developed and we didn’t have to worry about getting polio.


It has been interesting reading other people’s comments. I am attaching my scanned document to the e-mail. I also have the pin, but not with me right now in my winter home. -Juliana, vaccinated in Multnomah County Oregon 1954


I am a Polio Pioneer. I received the vaccine at Highland Park Central Elementary School when I was in the second grade. I do have my card and pin. I recall we went across the street to the "auditorium/gym" and standing in line to receive the vaccine. Seems like I remember it as an "adventure" at the time! -Jeannette


My sister and I were polio pioneers. I was in first grade and my sister in the second. I received the "real" vaccine. My sister received the placebo. I remember she was upset because she had to receive a second "shot" to get the vaccine. I do have a card and pin. -Claudia


I was a polio pioneer when I was 8 years old, at Gulfcrest Elementary School in Houston, Texas in 1954. I believe I still have the card, but the pin was stolen along with my jewelry in a burglary about 20 years ago. I was more upset about the loss of the pin than I was about the jewelry ! I don't remember finding out whether I had the actual vaccine or the placebo, but always assumed I had the vaccine as my older brother was striken with polio and I seemed to be protected from the disease. Some years later, I was also given the Sabin vaccine through a school in Decatur, Illinois and had a very strong reaction (fever and couldn't move my neck for several weeks ). I recovered fully and have had no negative affects since then. I remember getting the vaccine well. After we went through the line to get the vaccine we were given a comic book and peppermint stick to enjoy while we sat in the hall for the rest of the class to finish. –Anonymous


I was in second grade at PS #3 in Yonkers when they gave out the polio vaccine as a trial. The gymnasium was set up like a hospital with screens, nurses, and the smell of alcohol permeating the room. Some kids never had a shot before. I had, so I wasn't too scared. The nurse held your head and turned it away from looking at the needle. I received the real vaccine, my cousin had the water placebo. I still have my button and card. --Jane


I was a Polio Pioneer in 1954. The test site was Shelby, OH. All of us participating in the research were excited...until the injection. I was in the placebo group so I was given the "real" inoculation after the test results were released. Like many others, I was given a Polio Pioneer card which I still have. -- Patricia


I took part in the Salk vaccine trial in Naperville, IL. (newspaper archives say that whole counties were chosen to participate - mine was DuPage: ). I don't remember the "Polio Pioneer" title or getting a card or pin, but I remember we lined up in the school gym to get the injections, and I knew that it was a study to see whether the vaccine would work. I think most of us, and most parents, were happy (plus scared, at least I was) to be part of it - polio was so frightening, and we felt we were part of something important. I think I turned out to have gotten the placebo, but not sure after all this time. -- Mary


Hello, Anonymous - thanks for the comment. If you were in the placebo group, you would have been given the vaccine after the observation period. That was the protocol in any case. I hope your older brother recovered quickly. Regards from the History of Vaccines staff.


I was a polio pioneer. I received a little metal button with polio pioneer on it. I still have the button. This was 1954. -Cindy


My grade school class at Arthur McGill school in New Castle PA took part in the polio vaccine trial. We lined up in the hall and put out our arms to get the shot. I remember fainting after returning to my classroom.


I dont recall getting a card but we may have been given them. -Anonymous 


I remember getting the shot in school and then going on the jungle gym. I think that stretching out my arm made it feel better. I do not have the card but I do still have my pin. -Leo


I think I was in second grade when I received the first vaccination which in fact was a placebo, so then I had to have the actual vaccination. I was sent home with a piece of paper for my parents to sign, and though I argued against it (fear of shots), I lost. I was in PS 104 in Bronx, NY. I was very fearful. We had to line up in the hallway before entering the dreaded vaccination room which smelled of alcohol. The kid in front of me threw up, so it was not a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, I have no paper work. I vaguely remember receiving a pin. -HR


My Salk Vaccine story is an incredible I have never heard from anyone else. I was in 2nd or 3rd grade at Joseph P. Stockton Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois in 1955 and 1956 respectively. In one of those years I ACCIDENTALLY was given two (2) shots of Salk Vaccine approx. 1 minute apart in the school auditorium. That night I had a raging fever at home and by the next morning paralysis began to set in. I was paralyzed from the waist down for approx. two weeks and then gradually relearned to walk and went back to school. I am now 65 and in a medical crisis situation in Houston Texas area and cannot find a doctor to treat all that is wrong......including a very severe case of Post Polio Syndrome that has been progressively getting worse each year. I am on medicare and desperately need someone to help me. There must be some information the authorities or medical community can get from studying the facts of my case and my horrible health consequences from those two shots given simultaneously......please respond at least with a name who I can contact. God Bless and thank you. --Linda P. 


Dear Linda, I'm so sorry to hear about your health problems. You may already be familiar with the work of Post-Polio Health. If not, though, I would suggest getting in touch with them to find out about resources for polio survivors. Their website is They are in St. Louis and their phone is 314-534-0475. Though it doesn't look like it's been updated recently, they have a section on their website where they list current research studies that are enrolling participants. You may find an opportunity there. Best wishes for your improved health, from


I was a polio pioneer in a parochial school in North Arlington New Jersey. I still have the pin and have vivid memories about the experience. Now that I have worked in medical research ethics for a number of years I look back on the design of the study and the "consent form" that our parents signed and know that it could never happen now. It gave them the "opportunity" to have their child participate. I don't recall any child in my class who did not participate. Our parents so feared the disease that they were happy to volunteer their children. Years later I met a woman who contracted polio and I am grateful to my parents. -Anita


I was a "Polio Pioneer". I received my shots at Greenacres School in Greenacres, Florida. I do not recall ever knowing if I received the placebo or not. But we did move shortly after I got the shots. We were still in the same area, but about 5 miles from Greenacres. Shortly after we moved I met a girl with polio- I was glad I had gotten my shots. I remember getting all of the subsequent immunizations, also. The last was the sugar cubes in about 1969, I think. –Frances W.


I was a Polio Pioneer and received my shots at Quarton Elementary School in Birmingham, Michigan. I received the real vaccine, a card and a pin. I still have the card and pin. My mother had had polio as a child. She walked with the help of braces and crutches so this breakthrough was really celebrated in our family. The success of the vaccine removed a lot of fear from all our lives and we were all so grateful to Dr. Salk for this amazing vaccine. -Anonymous


I was vaccinated in Syracuse, New York at Edward Smith School when I was in second grade. A girl in my class had died of polio. We were very aware of the dangers and rules: don't lick another child's popsicle, etc. My mother told me later that parents were not told whether their child got the real vaccine or the placebo (or whether the vaccine worked) until a year after we were vaccinated. I was one of the lucky ones who got the real vaccine. I was not especially bothered by shots, but a few years later we got what I think was the Sabin vaccine, which was on sugar cubes, and we were happy with that. I don't remember a card but I still have my Polio Pioneer button. –Carol B.


I was in 1st grade at Newhall "A" (now West Newhall) near Grand Rapids Michigan. Both my cousin and brother were pioneers also. They received the real shots, I received the placebo and had to have all the shots again the next year. My mother and aunt said they decided that if they believed in science, they should let us participate in this trial. I have sent an e-mail with a copy of my Polio Pioneer card attached, as well as the card showing the vaccine I had to get again the next year.  -Lynne


I was a Polio Pioneer at David W. Harlan School in Wilmington, DE. I was in 2nd grade and wore a new (dark green print) dress that day because we were going to be on the local news. I was unprepared for the blood tests that accompanied the shots for a random group and unfortunately, I was chosen - possibly the root of a life long needle phobia! Btw, there is a Polio Pioneer in Philadelphia's Mutter Museum.  -Jane


Polio pioneer at Forest Park Elementary School, Little Rock, Arkansas. I remember standing in the hall in a long line--excited and proud, but not looking forward to the shot itself. We were vaccinated in the cafeteria. -Anonymous


I'm a polio pioneer of 1954 New York City Manhattan ps 61 on 12st.but I can not fine my pin or certificent so can I git a new one thank you John


I was one of the kids who got the shots. I remember being brought into a large room where we lined up and were then taken one at a time behind a screen to have the injections. The image of classmates disappearing behind the screen, the occasional crying, and finally re-emerging with tears on their cheeks is still with me. I don't think it was at The Birch Lane School, though. More likely one of the "annexes" they were using or Parkside or Lockhart. In 1958 my family moved to Cincinnati where, Dr. Albert Sabin was handing out his sugar cubes. Again, I was lined up in a gym with fellow students and given the medicine. I have been looking for my Polio Pioneer card for years... I don't think we got pins. -Paul K.


6 years old in Watetypwm, lMass. in 1953 Polio Pionear. Hosmer School -Paul


I was one of the first child to receive the real polio vaccine at Public School PS 9 in Brooklyn , New York they took a picture of me in the front page of the New York Post. Thank you. I live now for many years in my home land Puerto Rico. -Emerito


I was in Grade 2 at Gorsebrook School in Halifax Nova Scotia when they asked for Volunteers to take blood tests to see if we had received the real vaccine Not understanding what a blood test was I put my hand up :). I have the card and pin but cannot put my finger on it at the moment.
This has proved to be very special to me since I am a Rotarian and one of our biggest International projects is to eradicate polio around the world. –Betty Ann


Your posting caught my eye because I have experienced the exact experience as you. I was 8 years old when the initial round of polio shots was given in 1954 in Lexington, Ky. After graduating from college, I moved to Louisville, Ky. and in 1976 join the Rotary Club and very much remember the Rotary International project to eradicate polio around the world. I actually looked at this website tonight because the news indicated there was a new outbreak of polio in some foreign countries. This was upsetting to hear because of my prior participation as a "Polio Pioneer" and Rotary Club member. -Gilbert


I was in the second grade at Putman City elementary school in Oklahoma City. I remember lining up on the playground for a series of three jabs. The third was in the summer as I recall. I don't know if this experience affected me, but I became a scientist - Chemistry Professor. -Bob



My older brother, my sister and I were polio pioneers at Newhall East elementary school in Wyoming, Michigan. I remember talking about it with my parents afterward. I I don't remember a card or anything like that, but remember feeling proud(as only a child can feel) that I was one of the first to get the Salk vaccine. -Anonymous


In 1954 I was in second grade and received the Salk vaccine as a Polio Pioneer. I attended the Warren Oaks School in Framingham MA. My older brother contracted polio a year before so I could understand why my parents wanted me to participate in the study. I was just glad the I received the real vaccine and not the placebo. I am surprised to see how many different schools participated from all over the country. It was a very interesting experience. -Linda


I was a polio not remember a lot of it...I lived in Bridgeport Ct.. and would have been 7 years old in 1954. My two brothers and I mother was an RN and signed us up It was Maplewood Elementary -Shirley 


I was a Polio Pioneer in Roosevelt Elementary School in Ossining, NY. I don't remember the card, but the pin was a cherished memory of which I was very proud. I retell the story often to my grandchildren, who live in a better world because of Polio Pioneers. -Zvi


I was a Polio Pioneer. I kept the pin and card for decades and may still have them boxed up somewhere. I remember getting a series of shots at Mary Munford elementary school in Richmond, Virginia. i wasn't crazy about getting shots but on one hand it just seemed part of getting vaccinations (I had received plenty of shots by the time I got the polio shots). On the other hand, it was presented to me, at least, that these shots had some larger importance outside of my personal safety. My father had a close friend with polio whom we visited monthly for years; he himself missed about fifteen months of high school due to either a mild case of polio or meningitis from another source. He had another friend who owned a lake that he developed as a recreational center; it closed when it was suspected as a source of polio. The man commited suicide. So, my parents were very supportive; I think my mother may have volunteered to help take care of the children. I vaguely remember a newspaper article and picture. The only mishap I remember (outside of crying kids) was having a needle stick in the bone of my arm during one of the followup shots. -Craig


Posted by William E Heritage (not verified)

I was a Polio Pioneer 1954 2nd grade at 7th Street Elementary School - Anderson, IN. Remember standing in line in the basement waiting to go into the Kindergarten room where the shots were given. Seems as though there were more than one session? No longer have my card or pin.

Posted by Karie Youngdahl

Yes -- a shot was given on each of three separate occasions, so you would have been in that line three separate times. Thank you for the comment!

Posted by Col. James Tys… (not verified)
Posted by Ladd Chase (not verified)

I don't know why everyone says 1954. I had polio in 1948 when I was two years old. This is six years earlier than when everyone seems to be telling stories of. I was a polio pioneer in 1948 and Dr. Salk's vaccine got me better. I still have the card and pin somewhere. This was about 65 years ago and I have been fine, just hope I don't get post polio syndrome to slow me down. I'm wondering why I was a polio pioneer in 1948 and everyone else seems to say 1954, maybe because I actually had polio.

Posted by Mary (not verified)

I was a Polio Pioneer in 1954 2nd grade at Harrell School in Wichita Falls TX. I remember getting 2 or 3 shots. What I really remember is how badly the shots hurt and how that was quickly relieved because I got to pick my sucker -- always red. I also remember the fear running through Wichita Falls in those years -- some neighbors' children had come down with polio -- and so we children were not allowed to go swimming in the city's pools. My parents were eager for me to get the vaccine. After I had completed the number of shots, my parents made sure I got the swimming lessons, because they had both lost friends to drowning in the shallow ponds that form in the farming country on the high plains when it rains.

Posted by kwalsh (not verified)

I was also a Polio Pioneer in a Massachusetts school in 1954. After receiving the vaccine I contracted a mild case of polio. My family doctor was helpful in finding out if I had received the vaccine or the saline/water. He found out I had received the vaccine. I recovered after a couple of weeks but had leg pain for most of my life. Now that I am in my 60's I have developed a severe case of post polio. I am reading many new things about what was in the original vaccine, including extraneous, unintentional monkey viruses. Could explain why I had many illness after receiving the vaccine. Many flu like illnesses.
Welcome feedback. It has been so long and at this late date the facts of my illnesses is lost to time. kw

Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I was also a Polio Pioneer in 1954 at St James Catholic School in Falls Church, VA. I had my card for many tears but no longer have any idea where it is. As I remember it, we went through either 2 or 3 rounds of injections of the Salk Vaccine over a period of a few weeks. Thanks to Jonas Salk for his gift to the world and thanks to you for the memories.

Posted by Gerry (Nash) M… (not verified)

I also have the card and pin from the Polio trials while at Lincoln School in Bay City, Michigan. I did receive the vaccine. My father told me how frightened parents were each summer anticipating the "polio season." I have at least two classmates who had polio and are now confined to wheel chairs. They were not at the same elementary school that I attended. I consider we pioneers as lucky.

Posted by Lucy (not verified)

I received the vaccine in 1954 when I was in the second grade at Inez Elementary School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Until that time my Mother would not let us play outside in the heat of the day. I don't recall ever getting a pin or a card, though. I felt privileged to be a "Pioneer."

Posted by Ann (not verified)

I was a Polio Pioneer in Connecticut: Emerson-Williams elementary School. Got the three shots; never again feared polio. Of all the things I've done in my life, it may be that being a polio prevention guinea pig was the most important service I rendered to my country and society. Polio was so feared, for so long. After the vaccine, it disappeared.

People, get your kids vaccinated!

Posted by Penny Pittard … (not verified)

I was a polio pioneer and still have my card and pin. The card is dated June 3, 1954 at Pierce Elementary School in Birmingham, MI. I would have been at the end of my 1st grade year. I would like to know if this date is when we received the vaccine for the STUDY purposes, or when they gave it to us again if we had been in the placebo group. Was there 3 shots of vaccine in the study group, spread out over weeks or months? Or was the study just ONE shot? I was a Public Health Nurse in Michigan in the early 1970s. Then every child HAD to receive all childhood immunizations or the could not attend a public school. Only a couple religions could be excluded....and I would have a couple kids a year who fit that description in an entire grade school incoming kindergarten class. We need to return to that level of vaccination....and ONLY exclude children for medical reasons. We do not want to see Polio or any other deadly illness return.

Posted by john deptuch (not verified)

i was a POLIO PIONEER in 1954 new york city P S 61 manhatten

Posted by Edna grouchy (not verified)

I got my shot in Peoria I'll at St. John's school in second grade , we were lined up and got the shot one by one than got our pictures taken , I have my card still somewhere, will have to look for it.

Posted by Bob W. (not verified)

i was a polio pioneer in Silverton, Oregon in about 1954-55 time frame. There was much controversy and discussion whether the series of shots could give one polio. As I remember, the test trial consisted of a series of three shots. After the second shot, I came down with a severe case of mumps with swelling and high fever. I did not get better after a brief time period and was administered a spinal tap where it was discovered that I indeed had polio. The diagnosis was not good and my parents Were told I would probably never walk again. After a long rehabilitation I recovered with no signs of the disease and went in to play sports and finally become an Air Force pilot. It was thought that I most likely had a large quantity of the polio virus already and the shots actually triggered the disease, but because I had two shots, my body had built some anti-bodies to fight the disease. I was very fortunate for sure. I was given a Polio Pioneer certificate, however, I cannot locate it anymore. I would like to get a listing of the pioneers in my are or a replacement certificate and wonder if that is possible - Bob W.

Posted by Steven Arnold (not verified)

I was a Polio Pioneer in 1954 in 1st grade at Kenmore Elementary in Buffalo N.Y. This was a hotbed for polio from what I now know. My brother got the placebo and I got the active vaccine. Not far into the trail the results between the two groups evidently were so striking that they came back and gave everybody that got the placebo the vaccine, my brother included. I remember in school we had to take a nap on a little mat you took to school at the 1st of the year-mine was one of those rag twist woven rugs- because they thought rest was one of the things that helped stave off polio. We had to take a nap in the afternoon at home on the weekends also. How odd to think of an entire class rolling out their little mats and lying down and the teacher shutting off the light and setting a timer. I still do this today (I don't have the mat, but sometimes I do lie on the floor), setting a timer and taking a nap nearly every day.

Posted by Steven Arnold (not verified)

P.S. I lost my Polio Pioneer Card when I lost my wallet in College. I had carried it faithfully all those years and lament the loss to this day. Of all the things in that wallet, that card, somehow, was more precious to me than anything else.

Posted by James Krehbiel (not verified)

I was a polio pioneer, age 8, at my school in Illinois. I have my pioneer pin and memoirs. What an amazing time in our history.

Posted by letty schellsmith (not verified)

I was in third grade at John T . Roberts elementary, on Syracuse, New York.

The shots were painful and it was an unpleasant experience. We were marched like little soldiers and expected to be brave.

Months later, the local newspaper printed the names of the children who had received the actual vaccine, under the headline "congratulations polio pioneers ". My name was not there. I had ended up in the placebo group. My reward was to go through it all again.

Posted by Sandra (not verified)

In the 1954/55 school year I lived in Clovis, New Mexico. I attended La Casita Public school and was nine years old. I remember twice being loaded onto a school bus and being taken to Cannon Air Force Base and standing in a long line. I can still see it in my mind...and being afraid! I had previously had the smallpox vaccine and found it interesting to see if it "took". But this trip was different as I didn't know why I was getting a shot in my arm. At some point on my return to school I grew ill. The teacher sent me home. I lived about eight blocks away and walked home. I remember going in the house and sitting in our rocking chair and just rocking myself as I felt sick. No one was home at the time and I was afraid. I remember seeing little creatures running around the room and trying to catch them... (I must have been hallucinating...) When my mother came home she knew I was ill. She wrote a note to the teacher and told her they were not to take me out of school and give me any injections again. I can't recall but I think I may have gone another time either prior or later. I do know that all my life I have thought about this and wanted to know what that injection was. I have had a lot of ailments with joints etc. that are puzzling to doctors. Always an elevated RA but don't have actual RA. Anyway, I would love to know if I had the polio trial vaccine. We moved before the school year was over so I didn't attend but that one partial year. Where can I get info as to the trial and if that is what I had? I never had any other shots or polio cubes that I know of in later years.

Posted by William L. Andrews (not verified)

I have a distinct memory of getting a polio shot when I was a third-grader, in either the fall of 1954 or the spring of 1955 (I was born in 1946). Although I'm sure my classmates and I all lined up to got shots at the school, I might be wrong about whether they were polio shots. But that's my memory; it seemed like a big deal at the time. Is it possible that my 3rd-grade classmates and I were Polio Pioneers? The school was Snowden elementary school in Memphis, TN.

If anyone can shed any light on this, I'd be grateful.

Bill Andrews

Posted by Carol (not verified)

I was a polio pioneer in Providence, RI. I don't recall anything about a placebo, but I do remember that there were 2 shots and a booster - can't recall how long in between. Like everyone else is saying, we were lined up in the gym - plenty of time to get scared. My mom kept the card and pin for a long time, but it is gone now.

Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I was a Polio Pioneer and have known about the cancer risk
for over 40 years. Scary that we were ignorant guinea pigs
at such a tender age.
[editor's note: the original poster included full text of a Mike Adams/NaturalNews article from 9/8/2013. I've deleted it but readers are free to search for it under the title: "Merck developer admits vaccines contain hidden cancer viruses derived from diseased monkeys" I do not allow reprinting of work published elsewhere on this blog; I regard it as copyright violation]

Posted by Karie Youngdahl

Please see my note above about my deleting your copy and paste from NaturalNews. As to your claim that early polio vaccines are associated with cancers in humans because of their contamination with SV40, studies do not support your assertion. For example, a review of evidence by Dang-Tan, Mahmud, Puntoni, & Franco (2004) does not support this claim. The study is found at For more coverage on this, I suggest reviewing the SV40 posts at :

Posted by Jessica B (not verified)

I was a Polio Pioneer in 1954 at the Brandeis School in Woodmere, New York. My situation was a bit unusual because, having skipped Kindergarten, I was only 5 years old in the first grade and originally told that I was too young to be in the trial. I distinctly remember that, with my parent's help, I argued my own case to get the shots- principally because I wanted to get whatever my classmates did. I was already deprived of a variety of activities because I was a year younger than they-most notably not being able to be, with the girls in my class, a Brownie (you had to be 6)! I won. I got the shots, which turned out to be the actual vaccine. I was, for whatever reason, so extraordinarily proud that I wore my Polio Pioneer pin for the next couple of years.

In 1989, I was in a NYC restaurant, when Jonas Salk walked in. The restaurant was known to attract celebrities and indeed when Salk appeared, a group of well-known people immediately surrounded him. Seated nearby, I jumped up and in a fairly loud voice announced that I'd been a Polio Pioneer. To my delight, Salk pushed passed the surrounding crowd, came right over to me, gave me a big hug and said, "I consider you one of my children." It was just a great moment.

Posted by Karie Youngdahl

Hello, thanks for commenting. What a nice story!

Posted by Mike C (not verified)

I was a polio pioneer in the third grade in DeFuniak Springs, Florida.  Men were draining the swamps thinking it would stop the polio.  I recall the lines and some adults demanding to be in the line to get the shots and some shoving children an mothers away.  Adult men were not part of the Polio trials, but some quick thinker set up a "special" line just for those men who were causing trouble and had them injected with distilled water to move them out of the test area.  Looking back, it was a privilege to know that we helped out in conquering polio.

Posted by ursula wesley (not verified)

I have not seen anyone mention the school I was attending when I was a Polio Pioneer, in 1954 or thereabouts. My name then was Remmes.  It was a private Roman Catholic school near or in Dorcheter Mass.  Something Academy?  At any rate, I do remember still having the "Polio Pioneer" card, no pin, in my jewelry box for many years.  No idea when it disappeared, but I never had polio so it is all good.

Posted by Charlotte King (not verified)

I was a Polio Pioneer in 1954, I was in the 2nd grade at Swegle Elementary School in Salem, OR.  We were bused to another school for the shots.  I remember it was the first time I had ridden in a school bus and it was exciting but I did not want to think about the shot.

I remember standing in line for the shot. We went in alphabetical order and I was the one of the first ones in my class to get the shot.  I can still remember the smell of the alcohol when they swabbed my arm. I don't recall the shot hurting but I do remember my parents watching me very closely for a few days for any signs of a cold or illness.
I read that a group of children got sick and 11 died from tainted vaccine so I honor their sacrifice. How do any of us know what would have happened if we did not get participate in the Polio Pioneer trials.

But like you I was fine.  I knew how important these field tests were, a friend who lived down our road about 3 blocks was living his life in an Iron Lung.  He was under 8 years old. He was still in the lung when I moved from the area 4 years later.  We received all 3 shots of the vaccine/ series and then a booster a year later.

For whatever reason when the boosters were due again I was given the series again and when I moved to Roseburg OR I rec'd them again.  When we moved back to Salem, about 2 years later we all had the sugar cube.  It was suggested by some medical people that I do not get any more polio vaccines.

I am very proud to be a Polio Pioneer but I wish I could find my certificate, it was very special and my mom had it but when she passed I was not able to locate it or my pin/button.  I had forgotten about the button till I read it here. But I know I had the card I believe mine was signed by Dr. Jonas Salk himself, I recall my parents mentioning something about that. That is a repeated memory, I heard it from my parents but can't swear to it.  I also remember I had the pin but I think it was lost some time ago. 

I am still  a pioneer of sorts, I have pioneered a form of Earthquake Prediction called " The Charlotte King Effect "  I believe that being a Polio Pioneer prepared me to not be afraid to try new things and explore different means of doing things.

Thank you for allowing me to post on this site.  I am sure there is not any way to get a duplicate of the card but knowing I was not imagining it means a lot.

Posted by Rachel (not verified)

I hope the HOV don't mind me jumping onto this thread, I am writing a story for a children's magazine about Salk's vaccine for polio. I was hoping to contact someone who was a Polio Pioneer in 1954 and heard the announcement made in 1955 that the trials had been successful.

If don't mind me asking you a few questions about your experience then please contact me at [email protected]

Warm regards,


Posted by James S. Ferguson (not verified)

I was one of the many children from all the elementary schools in Corpus Christi, Texas, who were bused to a downtown auditorium, and vaccinated, given the Polio Pioneer card, then bused back to school in 1954. I was 7 and in third grade at Flower Bluff elementary school.