Contributed by Rachel Peaytt, Class of 2019 & Fall 2016 PHAR 546 Student
Albert Sabin was born on August 26, 1906 in Bialystok, Poland and passed away on March 3, 1993. He immigrated to the United States in 1921 with his family to New York. Sabin received his medical degree in 1931 from Bellevue Hospital and the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine in London. Soon after, he traveled back to the United States to work.
Sabin began his work on the oral polio vaccine in 1939 after he started at a position as an associate professor at the Children’s Hospital Research Foundation at the University of Cincinnati. He soon formed the Department of Virology and Microbiology at the university, and this was the outlet, resources, and system of colleagues that he had to do his research on the vaccine. In 1958 and 1959, the vaccine that Sabin created was tested in millions of people. His formula was an oral vaccine that used a live but weakened version of the poliovirus, also known as an attenuated vaccine. The vaccine came into commercial use in 1961.
Albert Sabin’s polio vaccine was the second polio vaccine available to the United States. The first was an injectable vaccine of the inactivated poliovirus developed by Jonas Salk, MD in 1953. The polio epidemic in America was most serious from the 1940s to the late 1950s until the first polio vaccine was developed followed by Sabin’s oral vaccine. Polio paralyzed and/or took the lives of thousands of children and other people each year. Epidemics occurred around summertime and into early fall with no idea on how the virus was transmitted. Years later, it was found that the virus thrived in the heat and was transmitted by large bodies of water where people congregated, like swimming pools in the summer.
Salk’s vaccine was an injectable and inactivated vaccine that was 80-90% effective. Polio was still not eradicated after the administration of the Salk vaccine although it was proven “safe, effective, and potent” and saved thousands of lives still. It was not until after Sabin’s vaccine was developed and administered that polio was almost completely eradicated in the United States. Salk’s vaccine was entirely phased out by 1968. The oral polio vaccine was more beneficial since volunteers instead of trained professionals that had to inject it could easily give it. The Sabin vaccine was also relatively inexpensive. Both of these factors were paramount when it came to administering the vaccine to people in developing countries. Sabin’s vaccine was also safe, effective, and induced long-lasting immunity to all three types of poliovirus as opposed to Salk’s vaccine. Salk’s injectable vaccine only stimulated systemic immunity, instead of mucosal immunity, and therefore did not interrupt the transmission of poliovirus. Salk’s vaccine protected individuals from the symptoms that occurred with the virus only. This was the reason for its less than perfect effectiveness that still allowed transmission. Sabin’s vaccine, on the other hand, provided protection from person to person transmission and eventually led to the eradication of the poliovirus in the United States by 1979.
Klein, C. (2014, February 28). 8 Things You May Not Know About Jonas Salk and the Polio Vaccine. Retrieved September 12, 2016, from http://www.history.com/news/8-things-you-may-not-know-about-jonas-salk-and-the-polio-vaccine
Polio Place. (n.d.). Retrieved September 12, 2016, from http://www.polioplace.org/people/albert-b-sabin-md