Polio Pioneer Card
Thomas Brosh; Colorado Springs, Colorado; 1954
The 1954 field trial of the polio vaccine developed by Jonas Salk ranks as one of the most significant clinical trials in medical history, but it was also a notable cultural phenomenon as well. The field trial was sponsored and funded by the March of Dimes (then the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis) and conducted by the Poliomyelitis Vaccine Evaluation Center based at the University of Michigan, along with thousands of volunteers nationwide. All of the 1.8 million subjects were children in elementary school grades 1, 2, and 3. Whether a child received the actual trial vaccine or a placebo, or participated only as a control, she or he became a “Polio Pioneer” – a mark of distinction that was often cherished for years…or for a lifetime!
The Polio Pioneer card issued to each child by the March of Dimes documented official inclusion in the field trial. What made it very special was imparting a sense of participation in a grand scientific experiment to benefit humanity, and most Polio Pioneers were acutely aware of this. Teachers in many participating schools used the occasion of the field trial for a science lesson about vaccines, and even first-graders knew the difference between the polio vaccine and a placebo. Many Polio Pioneers treasured the card in family memorabilia for years as a visible symbol of the part they played in defeating polio by means of the Salk vaccine.
March 10, 2015 / David Rose / March of Dimes Archives