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98 As a polio epidemic swept across Iowa in July 1952, Colonel John A. Carey, commander of the 79th U.S. Air Force Squadron based in Sioux City, learned of a field trial being conducted by Dr. William McD. Hammon to assess whether gamma globulin (GG) could curtail the epidemic and protect youngsters from paralysis. The squadron was not immune to the ravages of the outbreak; indeed, Airman Eldon O. Paul was admitted to nearby Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital with evidence of paralysis.1 Although charged with preparing air crews for deployment in the fight against communism in Korea, Colonel Carey perhaps considered the fight against polio as an equally righteous and patriotic mission. In the midst of this local emergency, Carey assigned twenty-­ one squadron personnel to work at Hammon’s injection clinics and speed science to an answer. Carey’s group became an instant success with parents and journalists, leading the experiment to be dubbed “Operation Lollipop.”2 How did the next phase of Hammon’s experiment become a reality? What were the results? This chapter assesses the expansion of the GG experiment in 1952, as well as how Hammon and the NFIP worked together to craft a story of scientific success. Building Support for an Expanded Program In the wake of the mixed success in Utah County, Hammon decided to prepare for an expansion of the GG study.3 While 5,785 Utah children participated in the pilot phase, statisticians estimated that an additional fifty thousand children would be needed to achieve a definitive answer on the value of GG for preventing polio paralysis. NFIP officials reconvened the Committee on Immunization Operation Marbles and Lollipops Chapter 5 Operation Marbles and Lollipops 99 to discuss the outcome of Hammon’s pilot study, sanction its continuation, and explore other research developments. Hammon faced the committee on December 4, 1951, at the Hotel Commodore in New York City. NFIP research director Dr. Harry Weaver opened the meeting and asked Hammon to recount his experiences in Utah County. Hammon reported that the study was a success and that observed adverse reactions were of little concern. “In every reported instance,” he explained, “the physician found some satisfactory explanation for the signs and symptoms, which appeared to be more likely to have been the cause than the injection.” Hammon’s rapport with Utah doctors probably kept negative reporting to a minimum. He presented the risks of polio provocation, serum hepatitis, and crowd contagion as either under investigation or impossible to measure. “Numbers are . . . too small,” he explained, “to lead to any conclusions regarding possible increased incidence of disease or localization of paralysis.”4 The positive interactions between scientists, doctors, and the public were emphasized. “Interest and active cooperation were immediately obvious,” he boasted. He claimed that thanks to the support of doctors and journalists, over 90 percent of Utah County parents wanted to enroll their children. He further asserted that the study, far from being a perilous venture, had ultimately won prestige. “The only criticisms heard,” he noted, “were from persons who were turned away, and their complaints were frequently of a nature that caused us to regret deeply that we were limited to 5,000 ampoules for the study.”5 By portraying the study as a success, Hammon transformed it into a victory in the fight against polio. The presentation justified continuation of the experiment by focusing on a need for more data and the promise of improvement. Hammon explained to committee members that the success of the overall program hinged on its extension. “We propose to continue the field project in 1952 along lines similar to those of 1951,” he stated confidently. The data were presented as valuable and ready to combine with future results. “The [pilot] study is not a complete waste of time and money from this standpoint,” Hammon assured members.6 The next phase of the study, in addition to being undertaken on a larger scale, would be safer and more efficient. Instead of the cumbersome glass ampules, syringes, and needles, he promised that disposable syringes preloaded with serum would be used; this would not only reduce contamination risks, but would also increase the speed at which children could be processed. Hammon hoped that the need for more data and evidence of improvement in the protocol would satisfy committee members. 100 Selling Science After his presentation, Hammon requested committee approval to continue the study. “Since plans are essentially the same as those already followed,” Hammon stated, “I feel...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813574417
Related ISBN
9780813574394
MARC Record
OCLC
952070849
Pages
272
Launched on MUSE
2016-06-25
Language
English
Open Access
No
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