On April 25th 1954, Randy Kerr, a six-year-old American boy, became the first person to receive the polio vaccine.
It followed a successful drug trial which saw the vaccine become mass produced and kickstarted the eradication of the deadly virus.
60 years on, I would like to recognise the heroic work of these medical pioneers, however, with 120,000 people in the UK still suffering from the late effects of polio and post polio syndrome, more work is needed.
Between 1947 and 1958 polio claimed more than 3000 lives and disabled over 30,000 people and although the vaccine became available in 1962, millions in the UK didn’t receive it till a while after the research was complete as many were unaware of polio and the dangers those who contracted it faced. Many who survived polio were left with, in the worse cases, total paralysis and at best wasted limbs and severe muscle fatigue.
If that wasn’t enough, many survivors have to struggle with PPS, a debilitating neurological condition that up to 80% of people who contracted polio in earlier life can develop; bringing with it new or increasing muscle weakness and pain, swallowing and breathing problems and chronic fatigue.
The British Polio Fellowship offers support to those suffering from the late effects of polio and PPS in the UK. For information about the Fellowship visit www.britishpolio.org.uk or call 0800 018 0586.
Ted Hill MBE
CEO, British Polio Fellowship