In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

122 In August 1953, mere days before a summer camp near Livingston Manor, New York, was set to close for the summer, polio struck a sixteen-­ year-­ old resident. Worried parents collected their children and set about locating the much-­ touted liquid gold of polio prevention: gamma globulin (GG). When parents learned that GG supplies in New York State were “practically exhausted,” they lay siege to the city health department. Led by Hyman Zarett, a real estate executive from Queens, the crowd of parents demanded answers as to why there was “such a shortage” of GG and requested the immediate release of supplementary supplies. This was far from an unprecedented event, and parents in neighboring counties stormed public health offices for the same reason.1 One former New York resident remembered the crisis: “Everyone lined up to get very painful injections of gamma globulin. . . . They begged for double doses.”2 A swift appeal to federal authorities enabled the release of additional doses. By evening, New York parents lined up for doses of the precious blood fraction . Although Zarett and his fellow parents exercised a form of civic health activism, they also participated in America’s first national polio immunization program. How did the national program come into being and how was it conducted ? What were the results and how did they affect future plans? This chapter explores the program’s successes and failures, as well as how the outcome affected the testing of the first polio vaccine. The Hopes and Hardships of the National Program The encouraging results of Hammon’s GG study inspired preparations for a national public health program to control polio.3 Newly inaugurated The National Experiment Chapter 6 The National Experiment 123 Republican president Dwight D. Eisenhower was enthusiastic about the venture and assigned the matter to the government’s scientific policy arm, the National Research Council (NRC), and to its logistics arm, the Office of Defense Mobilization (ODM). The ODM was a powerful Cold War organization established in 1950 to coordinate logistical activities for the Korean War and ongoing defense against the Soviet Union.4 Since GG, as a blood fraction, was considered a valuable wartime asset, its processing, stockpiling, and distribution fell under ODM control.5 The NRC and ODM enlisted the help of other agencies.6 The American National Red Cross (ARC), the charitable, nongovernmental organization that provided GG to Hammon’s study, was recruited to supply doses of the blood fraction.7 Meanwhile, the NRC established a special advisory panel to create an allocation policy and usage criterion.8 The panel comprised representatives from stakeholder organizations, including Dr. W. H. Aufranc from the ODM, Basil O’Connor and Dr. Harry Weaver from the NFIP, Surgeon General Dr. Leonard Scheele and Dr. Paul Wehrle from the United States Public Health Service (USPHS), Dr. Alexander Langmuir as director of the Communicable Disease Center (CDC), Dr. T. P. Murdock from the American Medical Association (AMA), and Dr. James Shannon from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).9 Hammon was also invited to serve on the panel and assist its members in designing America’s first polio immunization program. The NRC panel favored an expedient GG allocation method and usage criterion . Serum supplies would be dispensed from a national stockpile managed by the ODM and distributed through the USPHS to each state health department.10 Panel members reasoned that using existing public health infrastructure was an efficient means of moving serums during an emergency. The ARC agreed to fractionate blood from military and civilian sources at a cost of $3.5 million, while the NFIP promised to purchase commercial stocks of GG and cover shipping .11 When polio epidemics struck, the ODM would deliver GG to staging areas in stricken communities. To improve the response time, initial allocations were extended to state health departments based on volumes of 1.5 cc of GG times the number of confirmed polio cases in the state since 1948. Out of an anticipated seven million cc supply of GG in 1953, over 60 percent would be allocated for polio control, while the remainder was reserved for measles and hepatitis.12 NFIP officials faced challenges mobilizing industry to supplement ARC supplies. First, GG was expensive, and unlike the ARC, commercial firms produced it only at a profit. However, the NFIP was running a deficit in 1953; the prospect of committing $5.5 million to purchasing and shipping GG, as well as a further $19 million in 1954, posed a hardship.13...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.