Gallery B

Monkey Virus
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Salk Polio Vaccine Contained A Cancer Virus

By James Donahue

Before Dr. Jonas Salk developed a vaccine that protected us, kids everywhere lived in fear of catching polio. I remember a young boy in our neighborhood that lived inside an iron lung because he was a polio victim. We gave wide birth to that house.

When we moved on the farm, I was afraid to visit a neighbor boy’s home, or date his sister because I knew he had been a polio victim. The disease seemed to be everywhere and we never knew who was going to be next to fall victim.
When the Salk vaccine came out, I remember standing in line at the school waiting to get my vaccination. Later they developed a vaccine in a sugar cube that made it easier for kids to accept. There was a sense of relief that we no longer had to fear a disease that had the potential of killing us, leaving us partly paralyzed, or at best, taking months out of our lives while we lived in a machine that did our breathing and other bodily functions for us. Polio was a very bad disease.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt spent much of his time in the White House living with the after effects of polio. He used crutches and in later years was confined to a wheelchair.

Dr. Salk was an international hero. I think he had his picture on the cover of Time and Life Magazines. 
What we did not know in those days, and what Salk probably didn’t realize, was that when he used cells from rhesus monkeys to develop his vaccine, many of those cells were infected with simian virus 40 (SV40), later found to be a source of cancer in monkeys.

By the time this was discovered in about 1961, an estimated 98 million people in the U.S. and millions more worldwide had received the contaminated inoculations. Researchers debated whether there was a direct link between the SV40 virus and cancer in humans. Some independent studies identified SV40 in brain and lung tumors of both children and adults.
New forms of the polio vaccine were developed in 1961 that did not include the SV40 virus but the tainted vaccines were still found to be used until about 1963, probably because they were still on the shelves of hospitals and doctor’s offices.
There has been a lot of controversy in recent years about the safety and the effectiveness of vaccinations. Some parents refuse to allow their children to receive vaccines even though most schools require them before allowing children to be enrolled.
Thus the nagging question hangs out there for all to ask. Was there a fear-based conspiracy to drive everybody to receive tainted vaccines? Was Jonas Salk involved in a conspiracy against the American people?

My family and I received the polio vaccine. My wife, Doris died of pancreatic cancer in June, 2012, nearly 50 years after accepting the vaccination. There is no evidence that the SV40 virus was in any way linked to her death.

While the virus may have caused a few cases of cancer in humans, the Salk polio vaccine obviously did more overall good than it may have caused harm. It erased the threat of polio once and for all. From my perspective, I think it was a good trade.