Pioneers in Public Health The NYU - Bellevue Contribution

Developing the Polio Vaccine

The NYU School of Medicine is esteemed in having two prominent alumni who were key figures in the development of both the IPV and the OPV vaccinations for the prevention of the communicable disease known as polio. A disease that is spread through human-to-human contact, and usually enters the body via contaminated water or food, the polio virus is extremely infectious. It causes paralysis, and disproportionately affects children between the ages of three to five.

In 1947, Dr. Jonas Salk, a 1939 graduate of the NYU School of Medicine, committed himself to developing a vaccine against polio. Working at the University of Pittsburgh, with support from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (now the March of Dimes), Dr. Salk and his team advanced work done by previous researchers. In 1954, he conducted a large field trial of inoculations. Positive evaluation results from this trial cleared the way for injected vaccinations (IPV) given nationwide for the prevention of polio.

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